The tension in the house that stems from Erik having returned to Weschester with his small entourage in tow ebbs and flows like a tide; there are moments when it is quite like he never left, but then there are countering moments when Charles can feel the old battle lines drawn tangibly between the different factions. Sean and Alex on one side, Angel and Azazel and Riptide on on the other while Raven watches with her arms folded over her chest and Erik observes, eyes narrowed.
Charles is always conscious of the house being his in a way that doesn't matter at all to him, but does to everyone else. He says as often he possibly can that what's his is now theirs; and that he has no aspirations of maintaining proprietary control, not since he's invited them to reside with him. It's easier said than done, however, and Charles can see the fault lines exacerbated by a persistent sense of imposing on his hospitality. People do not react well to perceived impermanence.
In an easier world, he could sit down with Erik and just ask. Ask what on earth he was doing for the past six months, and why he's come back, walking easily through the halls. Erik still wears his very peculiar helmet that stands as testament to how much things have undeniably changed. Charles wants to ask if he plans to stay and what changed his mind. But the fact of him being back at all stays Charles' tongue on the subject. He's neither certain enough nor brave enough to risk waking up alone in his bed again.
He's reading in the library when Raven knocks on the frame of the open door and pads in. Charles looks up and manages to repress all but the smallest of starts at her blue appearance. They've reached an implicit agreement; she wears clothes, and they don't argue over whether decorative frills and ridges count as nudity or not. She's got her bright red hair slicked away from her face and her eyes are vividly yellow in the mellow light.
“Why are you dressed up?” Charles asks, marking his place in one of the many journals of genetics he has delivered to the house.
Raven looks down and smoothes her dress. To Charles' somewhat uniformed eye, it's very pretty; white with blue and yellow flowers that pick up the colors of her skin and eyes quite nicely, inasmuch as he can gage such things. “I'm going out with Hank--” she begins.
“Not that she needs a reason.” Erik leans in the doorway of the library, arms folded over his chest with a wry smile playing across his mouth.
Raven laughs a little and shrugs. “That, too.”
The pair of them exchange a look that sends something hot and irrational curling up in the center of Charles' lungs. It's wordless communication, tempered with a mutual amusement and understanding that has no particular room for anyone else. The possessiveness Charles feels, and has tried very hard to ignore since their return, flares up for a bright, hot moment. Raven is his sister, Erik is his lover, and the twain meeting is a barbed sight. To say nothing, of course, of their recent conspicuous absence.
“Where are you going?” he asks, wheeling back from his position behind the desk and pushing across the bare wooden floor.
“There's a drive-in half an hour away,” Raven says, glancing back at him with a look that's frankly challenging. “Don't worry, I'll play normal when I have to. Hopefully it'll be dark enough that no one will notice.”
The warnings Charles had lined up on his tongue fizzle at her comments. It's quickly becoming clearer and clearer that, whatever else happened during the past half-year, Raven has changed into a much different woman than she once was. It's in the new ease of her carriage and her blossoming tendency to speak her mind rather than to placate.
After a moment, her expression softens she crosses the few steps between them, then bends and kisses his cheek.
“Just be careful,” Charles amends. “I worry about you.”
“I know, Dad.” Raven says, her voice low and threaded through with a lifetime’s worth of constant acquiescence held in check. She meets his gaze with eyes that make so utterly clear the truth that there is no going back to the way they once were. “I'll be careful, Dad, I promise. I know what happens when I break curfew, Dad.”
Erik's laugh is deep and deeply amused, which only serves to turn her expression to a thin smile. “You are impossible,” Charles tells her, resisting the urge to blurt out apologies that he knows have little meaning between them any longer. Choices have been made, she left and came back, and that’s all there is. “Now go on.”
Raven straightens and blows him a kiss over her shoulder as she saunters away. Through the open door, Charles can see Hank standing at the foot of the stairs in the foyer, nervously fiddling with his glasses. He wonders whether they intend to watch any of the movie at all, and suppresses a growl at the thought. Raven is, after all, a grown woman and Hank is a good man. Also a necessary man, as he's essentially single-handedly rebuilding Cerebro deep in the bowels of the school. It wouldn't do to liquefy his brain.
“You're glaring, old man,” Erik comments, sprawling carefully into one of the ancient and very comfortable wingback chairs arranged somewhat crookedly in front of the fireplace. His smile is knowing to the point of being a touch obnoxious, and Charles wants very much to be petulant -- except that would be proving Erik's point rather than refuting it.
“She is my-- she is important to me” Charles says, wheeling his chair to a position across from Erik where the second wingback used to reside until it became entirely impractical and unnecessarily burdensome to move it every time he wanted to have a conversation. “I can’t help a streak of protectiveness.”
Erik snorts. “You're acting like her father, my friend. Remember, you've decided you don't want to be master of your house and domain. I think that means you forfeit any right to parental tyranny.”
“Oh, for God's sake.” Charles shakes his head. "I know I'm not her father."
There's bourbon in the crystal decanter on the table by Erik's chair (because there are certain luxuries Charles has utterly no intention of putting by the wayside as long as he can reasonably afford them) and he pours a healthy inch into the bottom of two tumblers. He passes one to Charles and takes a sip, mouth curled into a smile at the corners.
“I think,” Erik continues, holding up his tumbler. “In fact, I believe, you enjoy playing the father.”
It's ridiculous, of course, but contains just enough of a kernel of truth to send a wash of heat over Charles' cheeks and the tops of his ears. He hides the blush behind a healthy sip of bourbon that doesn't go down quite as smoothly as he would like, and he ends up spluttering a little to the glittering amusement of Erik's gaze.
“That's ridiculous,” Charles counters in a scratchy voice, setting his tumbler back down on the table. “I am, in theory, headmaster of a potential school. I—we—found them and brought them away from their homes and that entails a certain level of responsibility, don't you think?”
“True,” Erik nods. “But I still think you rather enjoy playing the benevolent, fatherly dictator. After all—” his eyes narrow and suddenly the room feels rather smaller and warmer than it had. “What are we doing but playing house?”
Charles swallows. “Is that what it is?”
He's not unaware of the peculiarities of their situation. It would be strange even without the complicating factor of their powers and what happened at Cuba and spies and war criminals and the unlikely barrage of circumstances that ensure they are very far from ordinary men.
Living together is not of itself particularly odd, especially considering the illogical size of Charles' estate, but they share a bed most nights, lying awake in the light that comes in through the windows as they explore and relearn skin and muscle and bones and bodies. In the morning they dress together and eat together, sit across from each other at the kitchen table with newspapers and cups of coffee and easy conversation. It is, a very little bit, like being newlyweds in a house that happens to be occupied by various and occasionally truculent children.
“I can go and fetch my best pearls,” Erik says. "Perhaps get a you a cigar and rub your shoulders?"
Charles feels heat flame into his face with sudden stunning intensity. “And what makes you think you’d play my wife?” he sputters to Erik’s wry, knowing grin.
Erik chuckles slightly. “I never said I would, dearest, just that you would so deeply enjoy it if I did. I can guess what you always thought you’d have; a wife and children. You enjoy normality. I’m no pretty girl, but beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose.”
“What’s wrong with wanting that?” Charles protests. “Is that such an unusual thing? DNA isn’t a fabulous conversationalist. One can’t spend their entire life in a lab.”
Erik shrugs. “Oh, there’s nothing wrong with it, I suppose. Though it could make a man feel just a touch undesirable.”
Charles huffs out an uncomfortable sound that wishes to be a laugh, but isn't. "You know how desirable you are."
The expression that passes over Erik's face is such that it makes Charles wish fervently, for a moment, that they didn't live in a constantly evolving and unsteady truce in which Charles does not stray into Erik's mind and Erik does not bring the foundations of the house down around his ears. Charles doesn't like to admit how much his telepathy is a true sixth sense, as necessary and fundamental as his hearing or his sight. It takes effort to deny it.
Erik touches the tips of his fingers to his bottom lip. "Would you have me as your little wife, Charles?" he asks, in that deceptively light tone that shatters Charles. It's so careless, and he only uses it when they're caught up in moments where they are so deeply clawed into each other that separation seems like a nightmare. "I'm not particularly obedient."
"I don't want obedience."
"Liar," Erik says, leaning forward in his chair. He rests his elbows on his knees and looks at Charles with the fondness of a predator circling in for the kill. "The only thing that keeps you from bending the entire world to your will is your very precious morality. So you don't make anyone do anything, because I think once you started you wouldn't be able to stop. Father knows best, after all, and it would be for their own good."
The pound of Charles' heart roars up loud and accusatory in his ears, and he hates that Erik knows him so well and so easily. Charles has never tested the full limit of what he can do, because he is afraid. Afraid of what he might find and, more than that, of not being able to step back from the precipice. The road towards hell, after all, is paved with the very best of intentions, and just because he can doesn’t mean that he should.
“It’s a good thing I have you to keep me in check,” Charles murmurs.
Erik smirks. “That’s what a good wife does, isn’t it? Keeps her husband from destroying the world.”
“Wives don’t exist to serve their husbands only. And besides, I rather think you’d be encouraging me.”
And that draws from Erik a laugh that echoes richly in the library and raises the short hairs on Charles’ neck. “I suppose I’m not such a good wife, then.””
He stands and crosses the handful of steps to Charles. Erik’s physical presence is so demanding; he’s tall and broad and obviously strong, but that’s only the half of it. Privately, Charles had wondered if Erik doesn’t emit a personal magnetic field that draws things toward him. It would, really, make sense. He extends his hand and traces Charles’ temple and cheekbone with the knuckles of his first two fingers.
“What are you thinking?” Charles asks.
“You have to ask?” Erik grins, wry and almost cruel around the edges. “It’s an oddly appealing thought, don’t you think? Us and our little family.”
Charles’ mouth is suddenly dry and all of his skin subsumed with dry, prickling heat. “I can’t imagine you as a wife, or a mother.”
“And you’re not as good a father as you think you are,” Erik counters. “Perhaps that just means we’re well suited to each other.”
Carefully, Erik lowers himself to his knees in front of Charles’ wheelchair. He’s tall enough that he’s not terribly shorter than Charles, though the shift in perspective is still somewhat gratifying. It is at times a touch irritating to always to be looking up. He puts his hands on Charles’ knees, which is a purely visual gesture for Charles, but still intimate.
They don’t touch each other very often, outside their bedroom.
In every moment of every day, Erik is beautiful to Charles in a way that stands in sharp defiance of logic and sense. They are men too vastly different to find such utter syncopation with each other. And yet. It is always and yet with Erik, drawing Charles toward him like a hapless moth to the flame.
There is nothing Charles can say to explain it. So instead he settles his hands cupping Erik's jaw and bends down and kisses him; it is apology and passion and understanding in a moment. He knows that eventually a day, another day, will come when there will be a problem that can't be surmounted by their kisses that triumph so much.
“In another world, you would be my wife,” Charles whispers.
“Or you would be mine.” Their foreheads are still pressed together and Charles can feel Erik’s lips form the words against his. He can feel the lightest brush of Erik’s eyelashes against his skin. “In another world, dearest, you would understand.”
Erik kisses him again, with more force. He uses teeth and his tongue with such extraordinarily precise skill, as though kissing is as useful a weapon as any innocuous piece of metal. This is what Charles wants; more than a wife and children, more than normal, more than peace. He wants Erik and whatever strange domesticity that means.
“Take me upstairs,” Charles manages to murmur, slipping his fingers into Erik’s hair.
“Because.” Erik’s mouth drifts to the hinge of Charles’ jaw and sucks at the skin there. “Goddamnit, Erik. Because little children have big ears and we are not alone.”
“That,” Erik chuckles, “is why parents learn to be quiet.”
The door to the library suddenly swings shut with a soft squeak of hinges and the sub-audible sense of humming that Charles always feels when Erik uses his power. The sudden cessation of ambient noise from the rest of the house makes the the smallest sounds suddenly louder; their breath mingling together, Erik’s hands tightening their grip on the arms of Erik’s wheelchair, and the steady tick of the grandfather clock against the far wall that irrationally makes Charles feel as though it is counting down to something.
“You are--” Charles begins, then stops. He kisses Erik, digging his thumbs to the hinge of Erik’s jaw. “You are impossible.”
Erik hums in agreement. “I am, and I want your cock, my darling husband. May I have it?”
It really isn’t begging so much as mocking, but the question surges through Charles like a bolt of lightning and. Suddenly he doesn’t care at all that anyone could walk in at any moment and see him like this, falling apart for the sake of a half-formed fantasy and Erik’s words.
Deftly, Erik shifts back so he’s properly on his knees in front of Charles. He looks up and licks his lips, leaving them shiny with spit and positively indecent. Charles’ skin feels like its been coated in melted metal for it’s easy obedience to Erik. “Tell me what you want, dearest,” Charles says around a crooked smile, because he dizzily imagines that two can play at Erik’s game.
Erik’s grin is like a growling wolf bearing its teeth. “I want your cock in my mouth, sweetness,” he says, easing upward again. His fingers find the top button of Charles’ shirt and pop it open. “I want my name to sound like a curse on your tongue.” The rest of the buttons fall open in treacherously quick succession and then it is Erik’s nails scraping down Charles’ chest at the perfect point between pain and pleasure.
It is possible Charles is insurmountably outmatched by Erik.
“Oh, God,” Charles exhales.
“Erik will do.” Erik grins sweetly. “Unless you would rather tell me what an excellent wife I am.” His fingers land on the waist of Charles’ trousers. “May I?”
There is a single moment when Charles blinks and sees Erik kneeling at his legs in bloody pearls and a dress and, damn everything, this is never what Charles ever imagined he would want. It makes no human sense that it sends waves of want crashing through him with more power than anything ever has.
“Yes,” Charles hisses.
They have relearned the mechanics of consummation (Erik always laughs at the word, finding Charles' undue prudishness funny) through trial and error and repetition. Erik pops the fly on Charles’ trousers and undoes the zipper; he knows that he has to pull with some strength and care to get them down around Charles’ thighs. He knows how to position his knees so he doesn’t knock painfully against the unyielding metal of Charles’ chair.
More than anything, Erik has learned a new means of pleasure wherein sensation is no longer the single biggest concern. He turns fellatio (and that word he likes, while still finding it funny; though cocksucking falls from his lips as a glorious thing that drives Charles to distraction) into a visual medium for Charles to enjoy. It is a show.
Erik’s mouth is always a nearly obscene thing, but the sight of it worshiping Charles’ cock is something that fantasies are made of. Erik swallows it down, no longer caring about skill or neatness; there’s nothing particularly erotic about cleanliness. It’s the mess that builds pressure in Charles’ center; watching the spit smeared around Erik’s mouth
“Erik.” Charles tangles his fingers in Erik’s hair and twists with some force.
With a small gasped breath, Erik pulls off and looks up. His mouth has begun to look a touch raw around the corners and his eyes are viciously bright. “Yes, dear?”
There isn’t anything Charles can say that won’t make him burn with embarrassment in the morning and therein, really, lies another chasm that separates them. Erik doesn’t have room left in him for embarrassment, and Charles will never be able to stop caring so entirely. He wants to let out a slew of filth, because Erik is both a good wife and an awful wife. There are a thousand lurid ways to play into the twisted domesticity in which they that coexist in.
“Don't stop,” Charles says, voice low. “Darling.”
It’s with triumph in his grin that Erik returns to Charles’ cock, this time reaching up with one hand to again scrape his nails over Charles’ chest. It’s another thing he has learned, to make the utter most of the feeling Charles has. His first finger catches Charles nipples and draws out a guttural noise; Charles throws his head back and twists harder at Erik’s hair.
He climaxes with a sense of hot, liquid release expanding outward from his center. His abdominal muscles contract and his back tightens with such force that he doesn’t know whether he needs to arch away from his chair or collapse in on himself. He clenches his eyes shut and Erik pinches his nipple hard between his thumb and forefinger. It’s a beautifully drawn out moment that pulses through his body.
When he opens his eyes, he looks down at Erik staring at him with semen on his chin and lips.
“God and all the fucking saints,” Charles says, eyes wide. “You are filthy.”
Erik grins wide. “Thank you, dearest.”
“My wife the hedonist,” Charles sighs softly and Erik’s grin sharpens. Delicately, Charles draws the tip of his finger along the bottom curve of Erik’s lips and his fingers comes away sticky. It’s obscene. It’s lovely. Charles no longer knows the difference with Erik. “What do you want?”
“I?” Erik cocks his head. “I want you, darling.”
Charles pulls his trousers back up with remarkably steady hands. “Then, dearest, take me upstairs and we’ll see to you.”