Charles dragged in a breath; licked his lips. He was parched. He had been flying for so long and with such intense focus, that he could only croak: “What are you doing here?”
He clenched his teeth to keep them from chattering. In the golden firelight, he could see the strong lines of the man’s shoulders and arms; the latter wrapped round his knees. The man was resting his chin on his forearms. And staring.
Charles could feel the intensity of that stare – he didn’t have to see the other’s eyes to sense it. And he couldn’t see them, anyway. The man was backlit; his face in shadow.
“What do you want?”
No answer. But a slight shift of the man’s body, this time; and a ripple to the want, wafting through the room like the fire’s smoke. No; worse than the smoke. The chimney had always drawn quite efficiently. Charles felt his breath coming faster, uneven; he used his left elbow to shift his weight back and away – he felt for the plaster of the wall with his shoulder blades. Get away get away from him – He moved his legs –
– the chain clinked
And he heard a soft growl, one that stopped almost as soon as it had started –
Charles felt fear grab his gut and squeeze. “What do you want?” he snapped, harshly. “Tell me – or, or get out. Hell. Get out anyway. Get out of here –” he shoved himself up to a sitting position – “get out. Leave me alone. I don’t care what you – just get out –”
Charles froze, listening.
“What do you mean, ‘no’?” He stared at the man. Don’t show him you’re afraid. “What do you want?”
“No …” the man whispered.
Silence stretched again. Charles waited, tense.
There was a glint of something that might have been teeth, in the fire’s light – as the man said, quietly, so quietly:
“No … The question, Professor Xavier, is: … what do you want?”
“What –” Charles knew that his jaw had dropped. He didn’t care. “What do I want? I want you to leave. Is that not clear? Or need I use smaller words?”
“You wanted things from me …” It was as though the man had not heard him. That low voice was rough around the edges … but the words floated to him with a dreamlike cadence. “In my mind.”
Charles felt his stomach turn to ice.
“In my mind, Xavier – some time ago, now … you wanted things from me.” A pause, then: “I haven’t forgotten, you know.”
“Well.” He fought down the surge of nauseated fear. “I’m afraid I have forgotten. Completely forgotten. All I know now, is that I want you to leave.”
He waited. Then added, tightly: “Please.”
“You’ve forgotten?” That voice was dark, somehow mocking. “How disappointing. And with all of my elaborate thoughts on what to do to you, for your little excursion. Hm?” The man uncoiled to his feet; rested his back against the mantelpiece – a lean, dark silhouette against the firelight. “Care to have a look? Would you like to see?” The man laid one long finger against his forehead.
“No.” Charles fought to keep from trembling. “No, thank you.”
“And you’re sure you don’t remember?”
“No. I don’t.” It wasn’t a lie, not entirely. He did not remember much. Most of what he’d done, almost all of what he had said ... gone. What remained to him were images: the statues, the tapestry – and sensations – the heat and damp and want … the man’s tears – god –
"I remember, Xavier.” That whisper slinked over from the fire and slithered into Charles’ ears. “You wanted several things. You wanted to know certain … secrets. You wanted –” Charles only just caught the slight crack in the man’s voice, “– you wanted to touch me with your mouth.”
A pause. Then: “… And.”
Charles felt cold – he remembered, the man remembered everything. His mind presented him with a memory of – of all things – the salt of the man’s sweat; clinging to his own tongue as Charles licked over his collarbone. God. He wrested his mind away from the memory; replied: “‘And’ what?”
“And you wanted me to let you go.”
Charles drew in a quick breath. The man must have heard it, over the pop and snap of the fire, for Charles heard dark amusement coiling beneath his next words: “What if I told you … that I would let you go, Professor?”
He kept his own voice cold. “I wouldn’t believe you.”
“Really and truly. Not for a second. Now, get out.”
“No, I don’t think I will.” And that lean figure prowled – there was no other word for it – over to Charles’ bed. Charles jerked his legs up and away to one side, as fast as he could – for the man sat down. Sat down – the bed creaked – and gave him a mocking smile.
Charles thought his heart would smash through his own chest, racing as it did. “Don't,” he croaked.
The man raised both eyebrows. “‘Don’t’ what? Don’t let you go? Because I will.”
Then Charles stared as the man’s left hand slid beneath the ribbed neck of the sweater he was wearing. It was dark green, he noted; dark green, of a close knit – with a hole over the heart and a ragged edge at the bottom. It made the man’s eyes look very green, reflecting the firelight. But there was a delicate, silvery chain draped over those long fingers, now, and –
He sucked in a breath, despite himself. The man had pulled out, from beneath his sweater … a jewel on a chain. It was – a crystal, or a diamond, perfectly round and glittering in a silver filigree. About the size of a thumbnail.
A thumbnail, Charles reminded himself sharply, that hadn't been ripped away. It would not do to be enthralled by the beauty of the jewel, or to allow himself to look too long at the duller glint of the metal ring wrapped around the man’s left thumb. The jewel’s chain brushed over the ring; Charles dragged his eyes from them both and stared at the man’s face.
“I will let you go, Xavier. I swear it – by my lady’s token.”
Frost’s. “Fuck your lady’s token,” he muttered to himself, and lifted his voice: “Don’t bother. I still don’t believe you.”
The man bared his teeth in a smile; let the jewel fall. “Take a look, then.” One long finger tapped his temple.
Charles swallowed hard.
“Only briefly, Xavier – and only to distinguish truth from lie. And know you this … if you even try to go further … well.” The smile widened; those teeth gleamed. “You will not care for what you find there.”
Charles didn’t bother to reply. Instead, he sent his brave raven flying out – winging to the man’s mind … and there ... there was a beam of light, almost. A clear path, shining through the maelstrom of shrapnel, the first barricade. The raven flew down it, silently.
And it landed on the far side of the river. The river, guarding the man’s thoughts …
There was a figure on the far shore. In front of the metal forest.
What do you see, then? … The man’s voice ... it was not coming from the distant figure. Which made sense, Charles supposed ... the creature had not said a word the only other time he had met him. But that voice, whispering in the chill of the room where Charles himself remained, reached the raven ... and made every single scrap of metal vibrate. The bird saw a bayonet quiver, below, where the metal was clotted with blood … twisted through tendons in a corpse’s neck, lying in the river. What do you see, when I tell you: I will let you go … ?
Charles had done this before. True or False would reverberate – in, and from, another’s mind. Not in terms of sun or moon – darkness or light – any of the tired dualities. No. The closest Charles could come to describing it was … in the sense of music. In tune, or out of tune. A lie was a discordant jangle, though the exact intensity of the dissonance ran the gamut, depending on how much truth - if any - remained twisted into the falsehood ... Truth, though: truth would make all the overtones of the mind ring out together in perfection.
Say that again, he sent, in the other’s mind – and the words had not even made it across the river before Charles heard once more ... the whisper reaching him from where the man sat on the bed:
I will let you go.
But then: he had hardly needed to hear it twice to recognize the chord: perfect, and shimmering through both of their minds with the sound of absolute truth.
Charles hardly remembered calling the raven back. He was gasping, staring at the man – at the smirk playing around the corners of the other’s mouth … Something was wrong, a warning bell was clanging in his head, but he didn’t care, he didn’t care, because:
“You’ll let me go?” His voice cracked; he didn’t care about that either.
“Four things.” The man held up his left hand, splayed wide ... then slowly curled the fingers down, leaving the thumb extended. Charles saw the glint of the ring. “Four very simple things.”
“Name them.” This could go so wrong, his mind gasped, panicking, this is a terrible idea, but Charles shoved all fear and logic and objection aside – the man had told the truth – “Name them. I’ll do them – anything, I’ll do anything.”
Why, why did you say that? his mind shrieked, but: “That won’t be necessary,” the man murmured. He brought his left hand back; slid those long fingers underneath the chain round his neck, and – Charles’ skin prickled. The man took off the ornament, and carefully draped chain and jewel over one of the bedposts.
“Four things, Xavier.”
“Name them.” His mouth was very dry.
“First: that you keep absolutely silent … until I leave this room.”
The man fixed those eyes on him. In the firelight’s glow, Charles thought, they looked like emeralds set in gold.
“All –” Charles gulped the word back; nodded instead.
One corner of the man’s mouth quirked up; then flattened again. “Second: that you stay out of my head.” He glared. “Not even a touch. Am I quite clear?”
The man drew in a deep breath; let it out in a sigh. There was a strange look on his face. Smug? No, not quite – perhaps … watchful – with a thick coating of the want that had long since filled the room like steam would a sauna. And …
Charles blinked. Was that a hint of – fear?
The man’s eyes narrowed, and the emotion – whatever it had been – vanished. “Third,” he said, softly. “Third, Professor … I want your full attention.”
Easy enough. Charles nodded again.
And almost choked as, in one smooth motion, the man caught hold of the bottom hem of his dark green sweater – and peeled it off.
And there was – oh – oh god - Charles was staring at lean muscle, at lines of ribcage and sternum – at – were those tattoos? Yes, his mind offered, faintly, and scars and terrible, terrible idea … But Charles heard nothing. The rush of blood in his ears had drowned out any thought except – he drew in a shuddering breath – except the memory of how that all of that muscle and skin had felt, pressed beneath him and slick with sweat in the darkest part of the man’s mind –
“Your attention, Xavier.” The man snapped his fingers in front of Charles’ face. “Up here.”
Charles dragged his eyes up from the line of hair, golden in the firelight, disappearing beneath the waist of the man’s trousers. He blinked, staring; he knew his face was flushed – and the other saw it, damn him, because that sardonic smirk had come back with a vengeance.
Then the man gracefully folded his legs up from off the side of the bed and in front of him, and he was on his knees, but then on his hands and knees, leaning forward whip-thin – like a god damned cat preparing to pounce, and – oh no – Charles could feel hot breath trailing over his own face. He jerked back as far as he could. The chain rattled as it pulled taut – he saw the man’s eyes flick to the side, then back.
“Now,” and that voice sent goosebumps up his arms. “Fourth thing.”
The man smiled at him, teeth glinting in the firelight.
“Take your shirt off.”
Charles’ heart shot into his mouth. He froze.
“Do as I say.” The voice was soft, hypnotic. “Shirt off. Now.”
Then … Charles fought past the thrum of adrenaline; fought not to smile. He’d do as the man said. And he’d show him just how stupid that order had been.
Carefully, he brought his arms in from his sleeves; hugged them to his chest, beneath both sweater and T-shirt. He hooked the hem of the T-shirt over his elbows, shoved his arms back through the sweater sleeves … pulled the T-shirt off through the sweater neck. Held it out over the floor, with a flourish. And then let it fall.
Then he looked back at the man, and raised his eyebrows.
The other’s expression … Charles bit back a laugh, because even with his freedom on the line, the temptation to snicker audibly was almost irresistible. The man’s face had gone from intense and focused, eyes glittering – to confused, to angry, and had settled on that narrow-eyed glare.
Really, that last seemed to be a favorite.
But: “Now, take off your sweater,” the other said through clenched teeth.
Charles made a regretful face, held out four fingers, and waggled them.
The man hissed, grabbed at Charles’ neckline with both hands – fast, too fast to stop with a slap – and – Charles felt his heartbeat thudding in his throat, hot and thick. Suddenly it didn’t seem funny anymore. Nothing did: and the sensations from his incursion in the man’s mind were flooding back, again – that skin, the sweat and heat and the way the other had pushed and writhed beneath him …
Fingers tightened, and Charles heard a rip. His mind winced away from the sound – this was his favorite sweater, the blue one – Raven’s color – and before he knew what he was doing, he had clapped a hand over one of the man’s wrists, and tugged.
The other paused.
Charles stared at him, trying to put every bit of the pleading he felt … into his eyes. Please don’t tear that. It reminds me of my sister – except: no, he would never breathe a word of his sister to anyone, and thank god he wasn’t actually projecting those thoughts -
“You like this one, then?” The fingers of the man’s other hand uncurled from Charles’ neckline; traced four lines of heat across his throat. Charles swallowed hard. “Its color? Your eyes … it makes them …”
The man was staring into his eyes. Charles let them go wide. The other’s breathing stopped.
A distant part of his mind made a note of it.
But the rest … Charles bit the inside of his mouth. He had made his point, but he had his pride – he didn’t want to strip for this – thing. Creature. Even if heat was pooling in his gut; even if his breath was coming short – he only had to obey four commands, and he had.
Then the man leaned forward, and – Charles let his eyes fall shut – he pressed his lips above those fingers on his neck, right on his pulse – flicked with his tongue and Charles felt his own desperate gasp rattle through his throat.
“I knew it.” That voice sounded like gravel. “I knew it – let me. Here.” Both hands moved to the hem of his sweater. “Let me do this – it doesn’t –” a scrape of teeth over his pulse, and Charles shuddered, “it doesn’t have to hurt ...” A slow, inexorable pull – and Charles gave in, held his arms out in front of him – bent up so he wouldn’t touch the other’s chest. The man’s mouth at his throat vanished – Charles gulped while he had the chance, and while his head was stuck in the sweater and he couldn’t see –
– and then the man had stripped it off him, and all those muscles tensed – his staring eyes gleamed – and he moved forward like a panther, framed Charles’ face in his hands and kissed him.
Charles focused on breathing. In and out. The pressure on his lips was so light – warm and – fluttering? What the hell? He let his eyes blink open, waited for the man to deepen the kiss.
But that mouth moved away and trailed up his jaw.
Blinking into the dim light, hyperaware of strands of hair tickling his cheek, of a sharp line of cheekbone almost touching his own mouth … Charles told himself he was not disappointed.
The yank of the chain on his ankle was a more predictable surprise, though, and before he knew it, Charles was flat on his back on the bed, staring up at the man’s face. Those stark features were twisted in that same strange expression as before … he couldn’t get a read on it. So Charles settled for staring.
The man’s lips thinned. Then he rasped: “Not a sound. Understand?”
Charles nodded. It wasn’t that he was afraid; no. He just … didn’t know what to expect.
Certainly not the man leaning forward, braced on his forearms, and brushing his lips across Charles’ cheekbone. Then across the other. Then breathing onto one earlobe – Charles shuddered – and nosing into his hair. Then tracing down to his neck and touching his tongue to – oh that’s right, the mark from the watch chain – he remembers it, even if it’s faded …
It was easy, then, to corral his thoughts, even with his blood racing through his body and desire turning his mouth dry. This, Charles reminded himself: this was the man that had almost strangled him – twice. That had threatened to gouge out his eyes.
And that had told the truth when he said I will let you go …
And even though those lips were tracing over his collarbone with more confidence, now, Charles laid hold of his power, and sent it to – let’s see – ah. To the impulses that controlled his vocal cords. He simply stood a guard round them, and then let his breath out in a silent rush. Do your worst.
The man couldn’t hear that thought, Charles decided. For he was still coasting his mouth over skin – lightly, carefully. Almost as though he were exploring, rather than acting outright on any desire. It was … strange, Charles thought again. Oddly soothing, though. Relaxing. Perhaps it was because the man was so warm. Every inch of that skin sent heat into his own, where they touched. If he could make a sound, Charles reflected, he would be moaning right now. Moaning encouragement, maybe, as the other moved those lips back to his mouth, and –
Charles huffed out a breath. The man just stayed there. Immobile – well, perhaps moving the tiniest bit. Really, though, it was due to the fact that he was nosing at Charles’ face – perhaps trying to pick up a scent? Who knew? But nose was moving more than mouth, which, frankly, was intolerable.
In for a penny. Charles carefully brought his own hands up, and rested his fingers on the man’s cheekbones.
The other flinched back, eyes wide and staring.
Charles looked up at him. Tilted his head, just so. Tried a careful hint of a smile, and stroked gently with his fingers.
Then he tipped up his chin, and – oh, he can be taught – the man followed the cue as naturally as breathing, and pressed Charles’ lips with his own again. Right. Lesson two. Charles parted his mouth and tried flicking his tongue out, running it across the man’s lower lip and retreating. The other stiffened, and stayed tense for a long moment … but then mirrored Charles’ own movement. And on the third repetition – god, what is this, table tennis? – Charles anticipated him and sent his tongue out to tangle – yes yes–
– and the man gasped and jerked away.
Really. I didn’t think it was as bad as all that. Charles tried to convey the thought with one raised eyebrow.
“… You did that to me.”
The man’s voice was hoarse, and his eyes … his eyes …
Charles felt his skin crawl. Don’t flinch, his mind told him, urgently, don’t look away, whatever you do –
Strong fingers clenched into his shoulders and shook him. “In my head!” the man snarled. “You did that – why?”
Because I wanted to, Charles thought wildly – and settled for staring back in bright-eyed defiance, and making the most obscene motion with his tongue that he knew.
Those eyes flashed, and before he knew it, Charles was being crushed back into the bed by what could have been a machine press – one made of steel, god – he had forgotten how bloody strong the man was. Only a small part of his mind could remind him of that, though; the rest was occupied in fielding one sensation after another: fingers clenching and relaxing in his own long hair, keeping Charles’ head at an angle – flexing in the same rhythm as a hot tongue stroking into his mouth, and the same rhythm lower, where – oh my god–the man was hard, hard and only just rocking into Charles’ hip –
Charles raked his hands down the man’s back and caught at the loops of his trousers. No belt – a distant part of his mind observed, but the rest of him told the catalogue to shut it and tugged at the fabric in order to get the man over, so at the very least there’d be something between his own legs to thrust against, like that – oh – thank god for his paralyzed voice, because he would have moaned like a whore as he shoved himself up against the man’s thigh, just like that –
Another gasp – almost a yelp – into Charles’ mouth and the man jerked away, again. Charles felt like slamming his own head against the wall. What was the problem? Besides you being completely and utterly ruled by your own stupid cock at this point, Professor – have you forgotten what – but:
“What are you doing?” the man gasped.
Charles blinked up at him, completely confounded.
What the bloody hell do you think I’m doing, you moron? Snogging you – a bloodthirsty psychotic bastard – within an inch of your life – or – oh god – because the man had bared teeth down at him, and thrust down hard against Charles’ hip, and – really rather more than an inch, sorry -
The hands twisted in his hair shook his head sharply; the man shoved at him again, harder. “Just like in my mind, Xavier … but you – you, now.” The man’s face was twisted in rage; he was almost spitting. “Tell me to stop. Beg me to stop.”
Then he brought his mouth down again. And thrust - hardest.
Charles blinked into space, realizing … this was the man’s idea of payback. Well. He ran his hands over the broad shoulders, feeling muscles flex. Honestly, Charles would consider weeping and begging, because he’d always been an excellent actor … certain scenarios at the Rose in Bloom came to mind … but. Not only was there his freedom to consider, but ... also?
It was difficult for him to be intelligible with another’s tongue jammed down his throat.
Not much finesse, he thought, rolling his hips up and smirking at the choked moan that vibrated through his own mouth. But points for enthusiasm. Let me see … He sucked on the man’s tongue, and – god – the other went wild. That grip in his hair would draw blood, soon; and there was really no polite way to explain the grinding pressure at the juncture between thigh and hip except: dear god, if we were actually fucking – and he were topping - that cock might actually stand a chance of hurting me. Me, Charles Xavier, the Oxford Casanova –
One particularly vicious thrust left him gasping against the man’s mouth – and Charles tossed his right leg up and hooked it behind the other’s knees, pulling –
The chain clanked, and the man pulled off Charles’ mouth with a snarl.
“Why – why don’t you beg me? You … you knight.”
Charles blinked. That had definitely just been spit, on his face, with the t. No matter. He’d had more interesting things spatter him during sex.
A detached part of his mind considered. The man looked enraged, eyes wide and staring – with … he shivered. With that desperation lurking behind them … and that hint of fear …
It would not be intelligent to gloat at this point. But … Charles’ blood was thrumming, his heart racing … And: payback? Really? I’ll show you payback …
A whisper of thought: you had your payback already … He shoved it aside. There could never be enough. Never. As long as he was a prisoner, the scale would be unbalanced, the world out of joint ...
So Charles looked the man dead in the eye. Widened his own eyes, slid his tongue over his lower lip. Canted his hips up … and … he let a grin curl one side of his mouth, ran his hands down from the man’s shoulders to his nipples … circled them, touched them … and squeezed the tiniest bit –
The other choked – and had that been a … whimper? Ha, Charles thought, and how the mighty are fallen.
“But –” a hoarse whisper. “How can you …” Those hands in his hair – they were trembling. Charles exhaled hard; let the grin widen.
The man’s jaw dropped. His eyes were wide; disbelieving, desperate. “Why aren’t you crying?”
Charles stuck out his lower lip mockingly, and brought one hand to his right eye. And then he followed the trail of an imaginary tear, slowly, with one fingertip.
And he saw the other’s face go absolutely white.
Not fear. Charles’ mind observed. … Rage.
That tear, Professor. The voice of his thoughts was so quiet …
That may have been a mistake.
But the man was … caressing him. And with such gentle fingers. Massaging up his neck, tracing his jaw, rubbing such tiny, careful circles beneath his ears …
Warm fingertips glided up to the hinge of Charles’ jaw. Rested in the hollows beneath his cheekbones.
Charles blinked, remembering. He had thought, once … the man had pressed warm lips there. On the left side. Almost kissing him.
And the memory of the man’s voice …
… you have a metal filling on the left side of your mouth …
Charles felt his heart stop.
… upper jaw, back penultimate molar.
The man’s eyes glinted.
– he had silenced his own voice, a distant part of him remembered. That was good.
Because all of him – all of him – every single part of Charles ... screamed as the man ripped the filling out of bone and rammed it straight back in.
The metal of his filling – shattered and reformed into a needle … it was twisting into the root of his tooth, like an excruciatingly slow drill, one point of agony sending spears of pain from his mouth to his eyes, his ears, his brain –
Brain. Pain receptors. Squeezing his eyes shut against the tears – the man had caught both of his arms as they had lashed out, instinct, and shifted a thigh to straddle him completely – god, he couldn’t move – Charles pulled some of his power from voice, and sent it to pain receptors pain pain pain. And even – god …
He felt tears run hot down his cheeks; he breathed in hard through his nose, and almost couldn’t, because his sinuses were full and overflowing ... Even with the receptors dulled - it was so powerful, corkscrewing through the bone of his upper jaw, now, little by little, ripping through marrow … the pain was still horrible, and he redirected more power, more and more –
All Charles could taste was blood. It was filling his mouth. He turned to spit it out – but there was more, welling up; pouring into his throat and choking him. He heard himself gasping, crying –
Charles’ eyes were shut tight. So he didn’t see the man lean forward, slowly … but he felt his breath, now wafting cool over hot tears.
And then the man started licking up his tears, like an animal, and Charles’ eyes flew open – he screamed and broke free of that iron grip to throw a punch –
The man tossed back his head and laughed. Laughed and laughed – it was horrible, it was cruel …
… and it wasn’t as loud as his own scream had been.
“No,” Charles gasped, and – yes – that was the sound of his voice. “No.”
The other had stopped laughing; his voice had been a growl. And now he stared down at Charles, pinning him with his weight on his hips, holding him still …
Those eyes were dark, and feral – and they flashed before the man swooped down and kissed him again – except there was blood, there was too much blood and kisses weren’t supposed to sound like a shoe sinking into mud and filth, with sucking and plashing noises –
Charles gasped and pulled at the man’s hair, yanking, trying to get him away. It didn’t work. He bit the man’s tongue where it was lapping at the blood inside his own mouth – god – and the man only growled and pushed his hips down, hard –
He was hard, Charles realized, horror surging through his gut. The other man was still hard – and rocking against him, again, in that same rhythm … Then speeding up, as he slid his mouth away and tipped his head back just slightly, jaw slack, gazing down into Charles’ eyes.
Blood and saliva had mixed; viscous strings of it fell gently onto Charles’ lips from the man’s mouth, hovering right above his. The man’s breath sounded wet, hot and urgent and then he shoved his face into Charles’ neck – Charles felt a smear of warm wetness on his throat – blood, his own blood – but then – his stomach twisted and roiled as he felt the man shudder against him, grind his hips down – and … and there was warm damp there, too, a little, and then more, spreading, because –
“Fuck,” Charles gasped, choking back blood and sickness roiling up through his throat. The bastard had just come. Had just come, had gotten off on the blood, the pain and tears – “You – you –”
For a long moment, he couldn’t move. And he couldn’t speak. All he could do was feel – the heat, the rasps of their uneven breaths, the quiver of muscle against him. He had to say – had to – Charles coughed. Monster, he had meant to say. You unholy, inhuman monster. But the words stuck in his throat. He dragged in a breath; coughed again on his blood …
“Hm?” The man’s voice vibrated against Charles’ throat.
“Get – get off me –” and, Charles hated the sound of his own voice – high-pitched and tearful, cracking – “please -”
A warm breath against his neck; a kiss to his Adam’s apple. “Say that again.”
“Please,” Charles choked. “Get off me please –”
“Mmm.” Another growl, almost contented – Charles started to struggle, and shove, and twist his hips – it only pressed him closer to the wet patch. He jerked to one side, brought up one of his hipbones – jutting, he knew, because they had been starving him – and jabbed hard where it might just hurt the bastard –
It worked. The man hissed, just slightly, and shoved himself up on his forearms. He gazed down at Charles, his eyes heavy-lidded, a flush on those cheekbones. He gazed ... for a long time.
Then the man ran his tongue over his own upper lip, tasting the blood still there … Charles caught a glimpse of that lower line of teeth, and – he couldn’t help it – he started shaking. The adrenaline had caught up; his pain receptors were still off and thank god the metal had stopped moving in his jaw –
The metal. “Get it out,” he gasped. “My filling – take it out –”
The man stared down at him. “Again.”
For one agonized beat, Charles’ mind went blank. “What?"
“Your mouth.” Those teeth were coated in a slick of blood; Charles saw it as the man smiled. “Put your mouth on mine again, Professor, and I’ll take your filling out.”
He bent, and his lips – bloodstained – were right … right there …
Charles knew that the strange distance to his own thoughts … had to be shock.
That was why he didn’t break away, why he didn’t take all of his power and shatter the man’s mind like a sledgehammer would a lump of coal. That was why he dragged in another wet and choking breath, and tipped his head – just slightly – tilted his lips up and gave the man a kiss.
It was chaste. Just a brush of lips. And the other drew back, breathing hard. And those eyes glowed down at him, blue-green and bright in the fire’s fading glow, as the man trailed long fingers over his jaw, touched his lips – tapped once …
The metal slithered out of the bone of Charles’ jaw, cracked the rest of his tooth … the man quirked an eyebrow and Charles felt something twist and tug. All the pain receptors were off, his mind reiterated, dull. There was no hurt; not anymore.
And that, he realized as the metal floated from his open mouth into the man’s cupped palm … That was another reason. Why he hadn’t used his power to fight back. It would mean taking it away from the pain receptors. And he knew … Charles felt tears well again, felt the man’s fingertips trace them … It would be unbearable, when he did …
“There.” That voice was warm. Charles only dimly saw the man press the tiny metal nugget into the ring on his thumb. “There now. Better?”
Warm words, and so quiet. Especially compared to the laughter, the screaming ...
Charles spat out more blood – and had that been a fragment of bone? “Jean – what about Jean?” he slurred. “She ... I’m sure she heard us –”
“She didn’t.” The man smiled. “She’s sleeping.”
Charles raised his head, just slightly; spared a flicker of power to check. A ghostly imprint of a sparrow flew to check on Jean … it was true. Her mind had the warm, sluggish quality that he had only ever sensed in the drunk and the drugged.
The bird dissipated before it could return to him. Charles let his head fall back. He didn’t say a word.
The man was still staring down at him; eyes glittering green in the firelight.
The whisper snagged on blood, where it was drying in whorls and patches on Charles’ face. He said nothing.
“Professor Xavier …” The voice was lulling, caressing; god. His stomach churned. “Good night. And thank you ...”
Charles closed his eyes. “You’re quite welcome.”
The man hadn’t expected that. Charles felt him go still. He dragged in another breath, and continued:
“And just to let you know: if you ever, ever do anything like this again …” he clenched his jaw, then finished: “I’ll find some way to end this. To – just to die. I’d rather die than have you touch me again. Do you understand?”
He looked up into the man’s eyes. Those eyes were wide. Something was glowing in them – confusion? … hurt? Holy fuck, he thought with a surge of rage crashing against the remove of shock, you have got to be joking – but: “Do you understand?” he gritted out.
“I understand,” the man hissed. “I understand perfectly. You, good sir knight.” And that spatter had to be blood, and two fingers jabbed into Charles’ sternum. “Knight of the Silken Shield. You have no courage. You have no strength. To lay you down and die -”
“Better than laying me down and humping someone’s leg,” Charles spat. He had listened to instinct – hurt him hurt him, bring him low and hurt him. “You have no staying power. You: the great and terrible,” he curled his upper lip, “adolescent. Pathetic. And you’ll have to inflict yourself on someone else, because, if you ever touch me again –”
Those fingers touched his mouth. Charles stiffened.
Then, a rasp: “I heard you the first time.”
And then …
Charles felt his palms go clammy at the expression in the man’s eyes. As he tipped his head, considering … as he took his hand away from Charles’ face – reached and – unbuttoned? – oh god what is he –
As quickly as he could, Charles turned his eyes away.
But he really couldn’t miss the sensation of a strong hand smearing come onto his face.
It was a difficult thing to ignore, really. His mind catalogued the heat, the smell – and Charles shunted the information away and did his best to stay absolutely still. Over his cheekbone, down to his jaw… and then more, rubbed slick and warm into his throat …
The man wiped his hand off on Charles’ collarbone.
“Remember me, won’t you?” A bloodstained smile. “Think of me … from time to time.”
Silence. Then: “Good night.”
And he bent, slowly, and kissed Charles’ cheek in farewell.
Charles didn’t hear him leave. When he blinked, and tried to raise his head, to look around … well. It took him three tries. But he finally sat up.
He kept the pain receptors muted.
“What do I need to do?” he mumbled to himself. Almost gargled, really. The gap where his tooth had been – he probed it with his tongue – was still bleeding. But … all of the shards and splinters of bone had been removed. “’S good. But …”
Antibiotics, Charles thought, distantly. He would figure out a way for McCoy to give him some. And …
“A veil,” he sighed. “Physical. Real.”
Because – he stared at shackle and chain. He had no way of washing himself, before Alex came to unlock him. And he was covered in blood.
Blood and come. All drying, tacky and sticky, respectively, on his skin.
He could smell it – Charles’ stomach lurched, and he choked back the urge to vomit. He couldn’t reach the bathroom, and he didn’t want to become even dirtier …
But: “I’m not dirty.” He exhaled, ragged. “This wasn’t me. This was him.” He plucked the T-shirt from the floor. “Fuck him.”
And he did his best to scrub off what he could.
Then Charles took careful aim, and threw the shirt in the fire. It landed perfectly. Caught fire, and burned.
Don’t set the place on fire – he heard the echo of Logan’s voice, and he drew his knees up to his face and choked back a cry. “Oh god – I –”
You have friends, he told himself, fiercely. Friends. Allies. And he – Charles wiped his face on the fabric covering his kneecaps, ignoring the jab of bone. He had driven the man off. Hopefully. Hopefully permanently.
He had no intention of dying, of course; not here, and definitely not by his own hand. But for all the sick glow in that creature’s eyes, it didn’t know him at all. It wouldn’t know to call his bluff.
Him, his mind corrected.
“No,” Charles replied. He felt tired. “It.” He stared at his shirt as it unfolded into ash on the hearth. Then he stared at the bedpost. The chain and jewel were gone. The green sweater was gone. Good. No traces, no evidence that the monster had anything approaching a human body.
None except that drying on his face, where he hadn’t managed to scrub it away …
But Charles closed his eyes. “Sleep,” he told himself. “Plan in the morning. Think in the morning.”
He rolled to one side, peeled the covers back and crawled in between them. Then he reached down – and took, from beneath his bed, Ororo’s book. Logan’s carved container.
And Charles eased Jean’s drawing out of his pocket.
He looked at them all in the fading light of the dying fire.
And then – only then, holding them all close – did Charles fall asleep.