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They are a young man's accessory, Charles has been told, but it's been a long year of waiting and caring for them, of salt soaks and cautious disinfecting, and now that they're healed, now that they're completely, entirely healed and a part of him, the piercings are one of the best things he's chosen for himself in recent memory.

He sits on the hotel bed, covers draped over his legs, nipples tightened more by anticipation than the chill in the room. Erik. Two years gone this time, but today, here, now. Charles can feel it when Erik walks into the lobby.

The hotel clerk looks up at Erik, frowning slightly in recognition, but the man in the mauve trilby and the grey trenchcoat can't possibly be a celebrity, can he? Charles draws a sheer gauzy curtain over the clerk's observations and passes the room key to Erik, and when he uses the clerk's voice to say, "Have a good afternoon," Erik peers deeply into the clerk's eyes.

"The same to you, I'm sure," he says, and he takes the key and heads for the elevator.

«Using humans as your mouthpiece these days, Charles? Not very respectful of their rights as sentient beings.» The mockery in Erik's thoughts is nothing new, but the clarity of his voice in Charles's head is both sharp and sweet, something Erik has perhaps been honing these past two years. He has had ample occasion to work with other telepaths. Maybe he's better not just at projecting but at protecting. Maybe his thoughts won't be as easy for Charles to read as they used to be.

The lock turns; the door opens. The heavy steel fire door would normally slam shut, but today it eases quietly closed, as if it's feather-light. A gesture from Erik, and the security chain slips into the slot; the deadbolt turns. He didn't place the Do Not Disturb sign, but the battering ram that could get through a metal door under Erik's control has yet to be constructed. They're alone.

Erik comes to the foot of the bed and looks Charles over, from the top of his head to the point where the blanket conceals him. His eyes catch on Charles's new nipple rings, and he licks his lips, perhaps without even meaning to. The rings vibrate. Charles takes in a sharp breath and keeps his eyes on Erik's face.

"You're losing more hair every year," Erik says. He takes off his hat and slips his trenchcoat off his shoulders. Both must have metal tucked away in the lining somewhere, because they float over to one of the chairs by the window, collecting themselves in a pile.

"Yours is still going grey," Charles says. But it looks good on him. He doesn't look weathered any more than Charles thinks he looks weathered himself. They're growing older, and not together the way Charles might have wanted, but--they're both still here. And despite everything, Erik is here today.

Erik doesn't stop at the trenchcoat. He's in one of his suits, dark grey wool with a purple shirt that looks like it might be silk; he takes off the suit jacket and loosens his tie. The suit jacket joins his hat and trenchcoat on the chair, and Charles raises a hand. "Wait."

Erik pauses, hand still on his tie. He lifts an eyebrow. "Were we supposed to catch up on the last two years first?"


"Have a look. It'll be quicker. We can get to more important things."

"No." Charles closes his eyes. «I know what you've been doing. That isn't it. I just wanted...»

Erik sighs and comes closer, walks around the bed and sits down on the edge of it, where Charles can reach him. Charles strokes a hand down Erik's arm, eyes still closed. It is silk, Erik's shirt, silk over warm muscle, and it's been a very, very long time since Charles got to touch anyone like this. Erik should know exactly how long it's been; he was there, after all.

"Charles..." Erik reaches out and cups Charles's face in his hand; Charles brushes a kiss against the curve of flesh under his thumb. «Yes, old friend, I've missed you, too.»

«Old. Yes, I suppose we are that, aren't we?» Charles opens his eyes and sighs; he strokes Erik's arm from his wrist to his shoulder. He can feel the tremor in Erik's body, the desire flooding him. It's comforting to know that some things haven't changed.

"Let me do this," Charles says softly, and Erik nods. He holds still as Charles undoes his tie and slips it out from under his shirt collar; he comes closer so Charles can undo his vest buttons and slip the vest off his shoulders. The buttons are enough for Erik to send it to join his other clothes; the clip on his tie does the job for that. When Charles unfastens the buttons on Erik's shirt, he realizes they've all been replaced with metal ones; he wonders, if he saw Erik more often, if he might make the same replacement on his own. The idea of Erik being able to undress him with a thought is a very appealing one--but then, he's got a head start on Erik, and is already undressed.

Erik stands, removes his shoes and socks. Charles has to reposition himself to reach Erik's belt buckle from here, but Erik's indrawn breath comes before Charles's hands actually make contact, and while Charles unbuckles Erik's belt and unzips his trousers, Charles can't resist looking in to see what Erik saw.

Charles's shoulders, upper arms, the flex of them as he moved himself--ah. The trace of a smile plays over Charles's lips as he slips his hands under Erik's waistband, and he pushes Erik's trousers and boxers down as far as he can reach, leaving Erik to step out of them. Erik's hard, and the sight of him is so familiar and so rare it makes Charles's heart ache.

"For all that I do keep tabs on you," Erik says, climbing into bed, stretching out alongside Charles, "I certainly didn't have the resources to find out about these." He reaches up, passes his hand above Charles's chest without actually making contact; the ring beneath his palm moves anyway. Charles sucks in a breath and pushes himself back to the center of the bed, straightening out and lying down fully so his waist and hips won't complain about the positioning. Erik stays where he is, propped up on an elbow, looking down at Charles's face. Charles tucks an arm behind his head, and Erik draws a fingertip down Charles's chest. Both rings pull slightly toward his finger, following the motion with the faintest possible hint of pressure. "Are they new?"

"A year or so." A thought floats over Erik's mind, and Charles grins at him. "Go on, ask. It's not your modesty that attracted me to you, after all."

"They're for me?" They vibrate again. It's a slight movement, but apparently leaving those rings alone is more than Erik can bear right now. Erik's excitement is all too plain on his face and in his mind. For me. Mine. Mine, Charles...

Charles reaches out and curls his fingers around Erik's wrist, and Erik's thoughts go silent. "Before you go too far in staking a claim to them," Charles says softly, "I think you need to remember who has a claim to you."

"Charles," Erik murmurs, and he turns his hand up, lets it go loose in Charles's grip. «I've missed you.»

«I know. Kiss me.»

Erik leans over him and does it, and it's gentle, easy. Charles brings his other hand out from behind his head and takes the nape of Erik's neck in his hand, holding tight. He can feel the balance in Erik shifting--tension from their years of rivalry sliding away, tension from their years of separation and the knowledge that this afternoon is only temporary coming to the forefront. Erik's fingers twitch above Charles's chest, and Charles gasps softly as his nipple rings are drawn up, just a little, towards Erik. He shares the sensation with Erik, lets Erik feel what he's feeling, and Erik moans against Charles's lips.

"That good, are they?"

"They've been making self-pleasure a bit more interesting for the past few months."

"You're not on your own now."

"No, I'm not." Charles releases his grip on Erik's neck, then Erik's wrist. "But leave them for now. There are other places that have been missing your attention."

«Yes,» Erik thinks; his eagerness is as obvious on his face as it is in his thoughts, which is gratifying. «What should I do first?»

«Face,» Charles thinks back at him, «ears.» He relaxes against the pillow and closes his eyes, and Erik climbs on top of him, straddling him at the hips. The warmth of Erik's skin against Charles's stomach and chest is enough to make Charles groan; he reaches up and strokes his hands down Erik's sides, from just under his arms all the way to his hips, tracing the back-and-forth path of his bent legs until he can reach no further. Then he moves back up, enjoying the rough texture of the hair on Erik's thighs, the smooth muscles on his back. Erik has always seen his body as a means to an end, an extension of his will, and the differences between his body now and his body ten years ago are minor. Softer in some places; harder in others. A few more scars, all of which Charles would have dearly loved to prevent.

But now it's Erik's turn, and Charles settles in, letting Erik trace his forehead and temples with his fingertips, taking in a long, slow breath as Erik gets to know Charles's body all over again.

It's true about his hair; it's going, and soon enough Erik's explorations might include a long sweeping stroke up and over his scalp, gentle scratches over sensitive skin instead of teasing tangles through the few strands left to him. Charles thinks he'll enjoy that, when it comes. He keeps his eyes closed as Erik's fingertips move down over his eyes, over his cheeks; he tilts his face up and presses his lips to Erik's fingers, kisses them one at a time. Erik shivers, lightly, and keeps going, touching Charles's cheeks, sweeping his fingers down the curve of his jaw. Smooth there; Charles shaved just before Erik arrived. Erik bends his face down and brushes his cheek across Charles's; the scratch of his stubble sets Charles to moaning and clutching at Erik's waist. "Erik. Yes..."

"Charles," Erik murmurs in response. Charles can feel the heat of his breath against his cheek, and when Erik starts leaving tiny kisses across Charles's face, Charles runs his fingertips up and down the center of Erik's back. Erik catches his breath and thrusts his hips down gently. "Charles--"

"No rushing," Charles warns him. He turns his head slightly to the side, and Erik leaves kisses all the way across his face, over to his ear. Charles holds his breath, anticipation and arousal curling tightly around him. His chest is tingling; his nipples are aching, dying to be touched and kissed and licked and twisted, but the no rushing order applies to him, too. They've both been waiting too long for this to miss even a moment of it.

Erik's tongue traces the curve of Charles's ear, and Charles shudders all over. When they were new to each other, this was pleasant enough; now that arousal has altered and shifted for Charles, having his ears touched is arousing beyond belief. He bites down on his lower lip, struggles not to demand more just yet. Erik's slow pace and careful lovemaking are a tease, but one Charles wants to savor.

«Show me,» Erik thinks. «Share with me. I know what this does for you, but let me see. Please.»

Charles shakes his head minutely. Erik sucks Charles's earlobe into his mouth, bites gently. It makes Charles groan. His whole body's flushing with it now; he can feel the rush of heat in his chest, particularly, the aching tight pressure of his nipples needing to be touched.

Erik teases Charles's earlobe with a soft lick and then presses a kiss to Charles's ear. He breathes softly against it, warm air flowing over and making Charles's heart thud hard in his chest. "The other, then?"

"Yes," Charles whispers, and Erik moves to the other side, slow, slow, kissing Charles's face as he goes. He leaves whisper-soft kisses across Charles's cheek, down over his chin, dips low to leave kisses against Charles's neck, and then he's coming up again, breath heating Charles's ear first, and then the slow, firm trail of Erik's tongue up and around, yes, yes--

He surges up and gets both arms around Erik's back, holding tightly as he gasps through it. Close, he hadn't realized he was that close, and the warmth and pleasure running through him is almost too much to bear.

Erik groans softly, vibrations making Charles clutch at him all the harder. He doesn't need to be told what it looks like when Charles comes, now; doesn't have to be told to wait while Charles recovers and catches his breath. He holds still, but Charles can feel Erik's heartbeat, can hear and feel the rapid pace of his breath, and as the pleasure-tide ebbs a little, Charles lies down again, licking his lips and smiling up at the ceiling.

"Please," Erik whispers. He moves down from Charles's ear, well aware of how sensitive his ears are just now; he kisses Charles's neck, instead, and that makes Charles shiver, too. "Charles. Please. Will you touch me?"

"Eventually." Charles catches the hot rush of desperation and frustrated need coming off Erik and meets it with reassurance, with the knowledge that Erik will get what he wants--just not yet. Erik exhales and nods against Charles's shoulder; he kisses that, too, and sits up, resting his hands on his thighs. His cock is hard, leaking a little, and the image of having Erik come forward and rest the head of his cock against Charles's lips so Charles can lick it clean is so intense that Erik starts to move forward--but he realizes, a moment later, that Charles wanting something isn't the same as Charles ordering something, and he stays put, eyes roaming over Charles's body. His gaze lands on Charles's nipple rings again, not that Charles can really blame him.

"The metal must be a terrible tease for you," Charles murmurs, smiling.

"It's right there in front of me, and it's in you," Erik answers. He licks his lips. "Inside you. I can feel it inside you."

"Feel more," Charles urges. "Go on."

"Yes," Erik moans, and both rings come up, twist gently in the piercings as they rotate straight up, at right angles to Charles's chest. Charles gasps and does his best to keep his eyes open; he can sense Erik's pleasure and excitement, but he wants to see it, too, wants to see the delight and arousal on Erik's face. It's so rare now, Erik being genuinely happy, uncomplicatedly happy, and Charles sinks into it, wanting to drown in that feeling, wanting nothing more than to watch Erik being pleased by pleasing Charles, forever.

Erik tugs gently on one ring, still using nothing but his power, and Charles gasps, arching partway off the bed. The warm flow of arousal comes crashing over him again, blotting out everything but the moment, the motion. Erik lets that first ring go and tugs at the other, and Charles pants for breath, wanting more, needing it.

«Now, Charles. Share with me. Please.»

"No," Charles says out loud. Erik's expression doesn't change, but Charles feels the crestfallen disappointment in Erik's mind. "No, I--" «I'm not punishing you,» Charles says, thoughts steadier than speech now. «You'll get it when you've pleased me enough to earn it.»

«Pleased you. Yes...» Erik tugs both rings now, so slow and so easy that the pressure is a slow-burning warmth in Charles's chest, something that sends pleasure radiating through Charles's body in a gentle, undemanding sort of way.

It's this Charles has been thinking about for the last year; this Charles could never do on his own. He can please himself, but it's not the same as Erik serving him, and he's missed it.

«God, I've missed you. I've missed you--»

Erik comes down, not asking this time; he kisses Charles hard, the frantic urgency in his lips and tongue telling Charles without words that he's not alone, that for every moment Charles has spent wanting Erik and needing Erik and feeling like being apart was killing him, Erik's felt the same. Erik's thoughts are a cascade now, a rush of feelings he can't contain anymore, and Charles digs into them, lets them flow through his mind and channel through his body.

«--want you, need you, can't live without you, belong together, brothers, lovers, friends, everything, everything, together, can't leave you again, can't leave this, anything you want me to be, everything, can't go, need this, need to feel like this forever, Charles, please, make me stay, want to stay--»

Charles reaches up and tangles his fingers into the hair at the nape of Erik's neck, pulling him back. It's agony, having Erik so close and so desperate, wanting so much, needing Charles enough to say things he doesn't truly mean.

I won't stop you leaving. I could. But I won't. It floats through Erik's mind, the memory of Charles's voice so early in their friendship, the way a part of Erik had wanted Charles to change his mind even then. Charles turns his face to the side, struggles to get his own wants under control. It's still true--after all these years, despite every mental technique Erik's learned, Charles could still change his mind. He could stop Erik from leaving. He could plant the seed now, leaving it to grow into an idea that Erik would believe was his own. He could bring Erik home, move Erik into the mansion again, shape Erik into one of the most brilliant, gifted teachers the students would ever know.

And Erik would be happy. Charles could see to that, too. He could make Erik glad to be there, grateful to have given up his old life, his extremism, in favor of Charles's goals. Erik could be happy, and at his side, and his, forever.

Charles catches Erik's upper arms in his hands and pushes Erik away; he isn't gentle, can't afford to be. "Move away," Charles says roughly. "For a moment. I need a moment."

Erik swings his leg over Charles's hips and kneels beside him, catching his breath, looking down at the bed. He releases his grip on the rings. Perhaps he knows how close he is to losing his free will, and perhaps he doesn't; in either case, he's silent as Charles struggles for composure.

"I will always--" Charles's voice breaks; he reaches up and brushes at his eyes, impatiently. "Always welcome you. Always want you. If you come to me freely."

Erik's smile is thin and tight, and he shakes his head. "All your ability, and you could never find it in yourself to take what you want."

"Can you?" It isn't as though he hasn't had the opportunity. Every encounter they have where Magneto wears his thought-shielding helmet, every time they're together and Charles is off-guard. Charles dreams, sometimes, of Erik coming for him--snapping cuffs around his wrists and ankles, drawing him out of his wheelchair, flying off to some secret lair and keeping him prisoner until Charles agrees to stay of his own free will. Even without the gift of telepathy, Erik could probably make Charles want that.

"No," Erik murmurs, "I can't. Are you grateful or resentful that I haven't tried?"

"Both, I'm afraid."

"Yes. It's much the same for me." Erik looks back at Charles and reaches out a hand, but this time it's palm-up, and Charles slips his hand into Erik's. "We've got tonight, Charles. Let's not waste it."

Charles nods, and Erik comes back to him, straddling him again, running his hands from Charles's waist to his collarbones, making Charles gasp with the pleasure of it. Erik's hands are sure and steady, eager and knowing, and for all they've had only stolen moments now and then in the years since Charles's injury, Erik has paid careful, close attention during each and every one of those moments, and he knows how to make love to Charles. He knows the soft touches that build up the lust in Charles until Charles aches; he knows the gentle scratches that make Charles breathe harder and harder, drawing him into a near-frenzy of desire. The added element of metal rings through the most sensitive parts of Charles's body are an elegant bonus, something Erik knows instinctively what to do with, and as he twists one of Charles's nipples, Charles gasps and clutches at the bedsheets, certain he's going to be lost to these sensations forever.

"May I?" Erik whispers. He tightens his hold on both rings and tugs on them, and Charles nearly says yes, anything, anything you want, but those words are never safe in their bed, not really. "Charles. May I touch myself? Would you like me to touch myself?"

The mental image floats up unbidden, a fantasy Charles has gotten off to time and time again since the rings went in, and Erik's eyes go wide with want, his mouth falling slightly open. "Oh, please, yes--"

"Yes," Charles says, and Erik comes forward, thighs flexing as he moves slightly up on the bed, up over Charles's body. He puts his hand on his cock, and starts to touch himself, and as he goes faster and faster, he angles it down, aims it at Charles's chest.

«Tell me when,» Erik thinks, lower lip held tightly between his teeth, and his hand speeds, his pleasure builds. Charles can feel it, can feel all of it, the pleasure from Erik's body, the joy of knowing he's doing this to please Charles, and above all, that talent for control, hard-earned, hard-won, leaving Erik able to hold on for as long as Charles needs.

But Charles needs this, too, needs what Erik's body is promising him, and it's a slight nudge to the right spot in Erik's brain--just a soft touch to the pleasure centers--and Erik gasps, coming hard, painting Charles's chest with it as the streaks fall one after another. The heat and the sight of it, through his own eyes and through Erik's, make Charles gasp, and he reaches out for Erik's hips, holding on to them.

Charles is close again, too, and as soon as Erik's done, he nods up at Erik. «Now.»

Erik nods in return, sliding down the bed again, stretching out across Charles's body. He presses his lips to Charles's chest, just above the heart, and then he's licking, easy, gentle, slow soft licks that take his come off Charles's skin a drop at a time. Charles gasps, buries his hands in Erik's hair, and rides the pleasure of it--the knowledge of what Erik will do, just because Charles wants it; the sensation of Erik's tongue on his chest; the radiant warmth of his nipple rings, waiting and wanting to be touched again; everything, just everything, everything he can take from this one perfect moment.

When Erik's mouth closes over Charles's nipple, Charles jerks beneath him and tightens his hold on Erik's hair, steadying him, keeping him in place. Orgasm is slower for him than for Erik, deeper, a long, flowing movement and feeling more than a single moment's peak, and he lets himself feel every beautiful second of it, lets Erik's tongue and hands and sounds give him pleasure after pleasure. He's just beginning to think it's winding down when Erik takes up the last of his come, but suddenly both rings jump, jerk hard against his nipples, and Charles spirals up again, gasping and clutching at Erik and all but begging. It's everything he wanted, everything he dreamed of when he watched them pushing the needle into his skin, and now they're his, Erik's, as Charles always meant them to be.

Dizzy, finally feeling the pleasure fade, Charles releases his grip on Erik and sinks into the bed, licking his lips as he comes back to himself.

«I love you,» he thinks. It's so much more than the words; it's the layers of emotion that surround them. The longing. The regret. The urgent wish that this could be the beginning of something, instead of just another interruption in the lives they've chosen to lead.

Erik slides off him, but curls an arm over his chest, slips his thigh onto Charles's legs. He doesn't think the same words in return, but the feelings are all mirrored in his mind.

"I don't have to go yet," Erik whispers.

Charles gets an arm around Erik's shoulders and holds him. Like the last time, like the time before that, Charles will hold onto Erik as tightly as he can, for as long as he can, for however long that may be.