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20 Questions Or Over

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Moira thought about it for two days before she brought the topic up. She choose to do it over breakfast, when everyone was on their second cup of coffee and the Sunday paper had been divided peacefully. They always bickered about that.

Moira picked her food, trying to decide if she should do this on her own like she had planned, or go through Charles after all. This was his relationship, he had built it from the ground up. Moira twirled the fork between her fingers. Erik ignored her outside Charles' bedroom, and she tried hard not to read too much into that but she couldn't help it. She had been in the unbalanced, tearing relationships before and Charles had not, so she saw the warning signs where Charles didn't see anything out of ordinary.

Moira poked the cold eggs on her plate, and looked over the table to Charles. He had the Sports section now. Moira smiled to his serious frown. No, she couldn't involve Charles into this. He mediated too much as it was. Moira couldn't know Erik's mind like Charles could, so she had to find her own way to Erik.

”Erik, may I ask you something?”

”Yes?” he said, without lifting his eyes from the paper. He had the news part of the paper, Moira had let him have it.

”Would you allow me to tie you up?”

Charles' cup clattered against the plate and he started coughing hard. Moira and Erik glanced at him, but he shook his head and waved, the sign of 'don't mind me, do go on'.

”No,” Erik said and snapped the paper back up, hiding his face behind it.

”Oh,” Moira said, trying hard not to look too disappointed. “I'm sorry, but why not? I'm much better at it than Charles.” Moira looked at Charles, who still tried to get the coughing under control. “I'm sorry honey, but I am.”

”But you are not as strong, so what would be the point,” came the reply behind the paper. Moira thought about his objection, trying to see what was the real problem. Physical strength was completely irrelevant argument. He could mean her mental strength compared to Charles, but that was unfair comparison. He didn't know her mind, in the same way that Moira didn't know his either.

“We could use metal,” Moira suggested and the paper barrier dropped and Moira had Erik's full attention. Moira tried hard not to get flustered, but it was a bit difficult, he knew how to stare people to unnerve them.

I control metal,” Erik said slowly, like she was a bit simple. “You can't tie me up with metal.”

“Yes, thank you, I know,” Moira said, blushing with anger against all her best efforts to stay calm. She hated the patronizing tone of voice, she had heard it all her career and she didn't want to hear it in her relationships, no matter off-balance they were. “What I meant was, if you feel I'm not strong enough, you could do it yourself. For me.”

“You want me to tie myself up, with metal. Voluntarily.” Erik said. “For you. Somehow.”

“Well yes, of course voluntarily. I wouldn't have bothered to ask you first if I wanted to tie you up against your will, now would I?” Moira said, imitating his patronizing tone of voice. He didn't seem to appreciate that she was spot on. Charles in other hand had another sudden coughing fit. This time they didn't turn to look at him to see if he was alright, they just kept staring at each other.

“This is the most ridiculous conversation I've ever had,” Erik declared, throwing the paper to the table. He stood up, the chair skidding against the floor. “Excuse me.”

After the door closed behind him, Moira let out a big sigh and tossed her fork on the plate. “That went well. Thank you for helping, by the way,” she said to Charles, who wasted no time to snatch the paper Erik had discarded.

“I got the feeling that you didn't want me to butt in,” he said, folding the paper the way he liked it, which was much messier way than the method Erik used. Charles liked to bunch up the paper.

“Well, consider this your invitation to butt in again. Is he very upset with me, do you think?”

“I think your suggestion just caught him unaware, that's all. He's been looking for a way to spend more time with you, you know. It's like you asked him to dance just when he was about to ask you. Wounded male pride, that sort of thing. Don't worry, he'll come around,” Charles said, more interested with the paper than the relationship mess in their hands. Moira sighed again, and tried to remember what was the reason she had joined this relationship in the first place, because at the moment she it was hard to say what the upside was.

“It's love,” Charles muttered, without looking up. Moira sighed again. Damn love.

“What now? When you are not around, he hardly speaks two words to me,” Moira said, leaning back in her chair. “That is not a good sign.”

“You throw him out of balance darling,” Charles said, looking up. “He haven't even been in a monogamous relationship before, and now he's knee-deep in triad, for all things. You remember your first relationship, don't you? It's mostly fumbling in the dark at the beginning.” Charles sipped his coffee, eyes distant. “Well. Mine was like that, at least,” he added, turning back to the paper.

“I believe he is more in a relationship with you than with me. But you don't think it might have been the idea of bondage that upset him, do you? I tried to think something he would enjoy, so if I was that far off the mark...Fuck,” Moira cursed. She had tried to think this through and now it was clear that she hadn't, not really.

“No, it wasn't that, trust me. Please don't give up, he just needs time to think. Please? I'll stay out of it if you want, I promise,” Charles said, doing his most heart-wrenching take on puppy eyes.

“Oh stop that,” Moira scoffed. “And eat your breakfast. When Erik and I find our groove, you are going to need all your strength, you can take my word for it.”

“I look forward to it,” Charles laughed.
***

The Mansion was big enough for Erik to avoid her for the rest of the day. In the afternoon Moira almost went to ask Charles where Erik was, he always knew, but then she reconsidered. Charles had agreed to stay out of it, so it wouldn't be fair to run to him and bitch about Erik avoiding her.
Besides, Charles had asked her to give Erik some time. It wasn't that hard to add 'space' to that as well.

It wasn't until dinner time that Erik appeared again. Moira sat on her own by the window, because Charles sat with Hank near the door; they talked about the plans Hank had for the rebuilt. There was plenty of free seats, so Moira didn't expect Erik to sit with her, but it still surprised her that he sat at the furthest end of the dining room and didn't even so much as glance at her direction. Moira didn't know if she should read it as a deliberate snide, or if he just didn't see her.

Moira picked her dinner halfheartedly, glancing now and then at Erik to see if she could catch his attention, but he seemed fixed on his dinner. After a while she gave up completely and decided to spent the evening at her room. She did have more important things to do than stare Erik's turned back.

She was half-way through the case files when there was a hesitant knock on her door. Moira pushed the files into a hasty pile and went to open the door. Sometimes Raven came over to talk even though they weren't close friends. She didn't like the place she had in Charles' life, but they tried to get along. Moira was starting to think that it was a fixed theme of her life these days, getting along with people who didn't care for it.

So it was a surprise to see Erik in the hallway when she opened the door. He looked a bit pale, and nervous. For a second there Moira though he would bolt without a word.

“Would you like to come in?” Moira asked. He nodded and stepped past her into the room.

Her room wasn't as big as the master bedroom, but it was spacious and furnished elegantly like every other room in the Mansion. Erik looked around, and Moira felt suddenly self-conscious under the scrutiny. She hurried to brush the files off the bed and straighten the bed cover. Erik didn't comment, he simply stood there, hands in his pockets.
There was an awkward silence.

Moira tried to think what to say to break this strange silence, but before she could come up with anything, Erik took a little envelope from his pocket and thrust it into her hands. That was the last thing Moira had expected, so for a moment she didn't know what to do. She opened the envelope, and dropped the object inside to the palm of her hand. It was a block of metal, about the size of a chocolate bar.
Erik stared at her, waiting her to say something.

”I'm sorry. What is this?”

“You didn't specify what metal you would like to use, so I took the liberty to choose for you,” Erik said. “I thought you would appreciate something with a bit of glimmer. See?”

Moira looked at the block again. It did glimmer, when she turned it toward the light. Moira felt a sudden rush of emotion, her heart skipping a beat. He had spent time considering what she would like. He had thought about her. Moira blushed.

“Thank you, it is lovely. Wait, does this mean...”

“I would like you to tie me up.”

His words shot through her like an electric current, and her hands started shaking. Erik reached to hold her hand and the metal block seemed to shiver as much as Moira. She feared that she would burst into tears from the overwhelming emotions

“If you don't like it, the house is full of iron pokers. And there is the silverware, of course.”

“I don't think Charles would appreciate if we destroyed the family heirlooms.”

“The pokers aren't that historical,” Erik said and even though it was a lame joke, Moira laughed. She had never heard him even attempt a joke before. It was strange and amazing at the same time. Everything about this was strange and amazing.

“How...How should we do this?” Moira asked. She felt shy and vulnerable. Erik looked equally uncertain, and they just stared at each other like teenagers, all blushes and shaking hands.

“You decide,” Erik said. “You claimed you are good at this.”

“Take off your shirt,” Moira said and watched with interest as Erik obediently pulled his shirt over his head and tossed it on the chair. She had seen him clothed, naked and various points in between, but for some reason, this time it felt different. He waited for her next word, and now the silence didn't feel awkward at all, it felt electrified. Tense and fragile. Moira held the metal in her hands, thinking what she wanted to do with it.

Moira walked to him, so close that she almost touched his naked skin. She held the block of metal against him, right in the slope of his chest. She didn't see his fingers move, but suddenly the metal was fluid, shimmering and slick on his skin. The metal moved around in slow circles, waiting.

Moira moved her hands, and the metal followed. Swipe here, swipe there, and the metal spread thinner, coating him. Moira imagined it was lotion that she rubbed on him. The feeling was exhilarating. Slowly she slid her hands around his chest, past the sides, all around the back, the metal moving after the route she showed. The two sides connected over his spine, melting together seamlessly. It was a metal band around his chest, thin but not sharp, shining in the light. He looked beautiful.

Moira could feel the heat rising from his skin, the steady thrum of his heart under his chest. He seemed calm, a bit distant, but otherwise fine.

“Not too tight, is it?”

“No.”

“Good. Arms on the side.”

Erik obeyed and the metal leaped where Moira crafted the path, circling around his biceps and finishing the route back to the band around his chest.

“Alright?” Moira asked, looking up to see his eyes. He nodded, looking softer from the edges. “I want you to lay down now. On the bed.” Moira added, keeping her hands around his waist, pulling him to follow her. He followed without objections, the metal now unmoving and still against his skin. Moira took him to the bed and he laid down, his muscles tense and fingers twitching.

We get spoiled with Charles, you know,” Moira said, kicking off her shoes, before climbing on the bed next to him. “No messy words to spoil the mood, none of those embarrassing misunderstandings, no feeling stupid when you say the wrong thing at the wrong time,” she continued, draping her leg over his and leaning against her arm so she could keep looking into his eyes. “But you and me, we don't have that luxury. We have to talk, and it might be frustrating, and stupid, and boring, but that's what we, you and me, have to do. We can't skip that part, just because Charles makes it easy for us.”

He blinked to that, and Moira sighed, holding down the idea to grab him and shake him, until there was some sense in his head.

“I don't know what you think.”

“I don't know what you want to hear,” he said, and the metal jolted around him, like his heart had leaped in his chest. Moira brushed her hand over the curve of his collarbone, then the other and back again.

“You can tell me anything you want. It doesn't even have to be true, make up stories if that feels safer. Or tell me what you read from the morning paper. Did you like the dinner? Anything.”

Erik said nothing, but he didn't drop the metal, and he didn't stand up and leave. Nothing kept him there but his own will, so Moira kept trailing her fingers around his bare skin, waiting him to think it through. He had managed to think about her, now he should think about himself in connection to that.
This could take a while.

“I'm ticklish,” he said suddenly. Moira stayed very still, holding her breath. “From the sides, mostly. And there is a spot, maybe width of your hand north from my navel.”

Moira looked at his stomach, trying to map out the flesh in the light of this knowledge. He was a new, uncharted terrain. “It that something you like? Tickling?”

“You know that,” Erik said, thinking. “I'm sure you do. Last Friday?”

“No, I didn't know,” Moira said, sliding down on the bed. “Last Friday I was in New York, setting up the safe house.” She pressed her hand on the flat of his stomach, and measured the hand width to north he had said. His muscles fluttered in anticipation.

“Oh.” He was quiet for a moment. “Sorry about that. I was sure you were here.”

“Nope. New York,” Moira said and leaned over him, blowing a gust of air next to her hand, to test the area. He squirmed from the sensation. “What happened last Friday?”

“Nothing.”

“I don't care for the truth if that's the problem. I just want you to talk to me. That's all,” Moira said, repeating her offer. She kept her attention on his skin, because it would be easier for him to talk that way.

“We watched television. I didn't like the show, but there was nothing else to do. I really wanted to get drunk.”

“I had three Screwdrivers last Friday,” Moira said, planning her attack. It had been awhile since she had tickled anyone with any serious deliberation, but it wasn't something you forget. She delved straight into the strip of skin he had identified, and the minute her fingers touched him, he bucked and squirmed, biting down a laughter. The metal band around him had been immobile all this time, but now it fluctuated with his squirms. Moira had to admire how he could keep the metal relatively under control even though she tickled him the best she could.

“I don't like Screwdrivers,” Erik panted when Moira stopped to let him breathe. “Garnish is half the fun.”

“Orange juice looks innocent,” Moira countered, running her fingers up and down his sides to cause another fit of laughter. “And there is no such thing as botched up Screwdriver.”

“I couldn't get drunk, so I sucked Charles off in the library,” Erik said when Moira let him breathe again. Moira laughed.

“I sucked him off there on Saturday morning. Damn. I wish I had known, Charles could have played it back to me.”

“Moira?”

“Yes?”

“I think I might love you.”

Moira looked up from his awaiting skin, and smiled.