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Favorite Mistake

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Charles woke and immediately regretted it. His head was pounding, his gut was roiling, and something furry had crawled into his mouth and died. He groaned as opened his eyes to slits, grateful for the darkness of the room. Those were some great blackout curtains, but not his curtains, and this was definitely not his bed. The shift in breathing behind him startled him enough that he jerked, the movement sending pain through his aching body, and oh my god, he was never drinking again.

The memories were coming back now. The bar. The drinks. The hot guy.

Oh god, Charles thought wildly, please let him be hot even without the beer goggles. He rolled gingerly to face his bedmate, and silently congratulated himself for having great taste. The man had long eyelashes and a defined jawline covered in slight scruff, and his well-muscled shoulders and chest trailed down into a narrow waist that was covered by a flimsy sheet. If Charles hadn’t been in so much pain, he might have fist pumped.

The man shifted a bit in sleep, his mind a low buzz, and suddenly Charles remembered with a jolt the promised appointment he had with his father. He slid from the bed as quickly as he could, ignoring the delicious twinge in his backside and locating various pieces of his clothing strewn throughout the room and pulling them on. The red numbers of the clock on the nightstand read 6:38, and Charles calculated quickly in his mind. Enough time to get home, shower, pull on some kind of suit, and make it to Xavier Tower, but barely.

The sleeping hottie hadn’t moved, and Charles took a moment to admire him again before stumbling through the expensive and sleek apartment to the front door and letting himself out. The doorman was obviously paid enough not to comment on his disheveled appearance when he held open the door for Charles, but two cabs, obviously finding him suspicious, passed him before a third one finally stopped.

*

Charles bolted through the tall glass doors and paused only long enough to scan his badge and offer Alex the security guard a quick hello. He made it up the elevator and ran to the door of his father’s office, knocking lightly on the frosted glass as he tried to catch his breath.

“Come in, Charles,” his father called, and Charles took a moment to cheat, checking his father’s mind for anger but finding only resigned amusement. He entered to find him sitting at his massive desk and looking appropriately intimidating. “So nice of you to join me this morning. Rough night?”

Rough in some ways, he thought, but quickly dismissed the thought of hot, strong hands on his hips before the flush could show on his face. “Just went out drinking with a few friends,” he answered neutrally, going for the smile he knew his father was weak against.

His father just shook his head, far too used to Charles’ ways. “I called you here for an important reason, so I expect you to take this seriously.”

“Of course,” Charles responded automatically. He eyed the chairs and couch on the other side of the room, longing to sit his still-aching body down.

His father pointedly ignored his line of sight and continued in his calm, even voice. “I know you enjoy working in the labs for us, and I know you and Hank are in the middle of something, but as I get older, I think it’s important for you to learn more about this company.”

Charles didn’t like where this was going, but he wasn’t about to say that. “Learn what exactly?”

“The business-side of our operations. Do you even know what ‘ROI’ means?”

Charles did, but he didn’t think his father wanted him to answer, so he dug around for the information he wanted instead. “So you’re sending me to marketing?”

“You’re getting better. I almost didn’t feel that,” his father remarked mildly, leaning his elbows forward on his desk and linking his fingers. “I believe the director of the department will take great care of you. I trust him with my company, and I know I can trust him with my son.”

Charles knew arguing was pointless, but he still sent a bit of irritation straight into his father’s mind. “Fine. For how long? You know I’m more valuable down in the labs.”

“Just one month.”

“And I’m assuming I start now?”

His father smiled. “You’re starting to learn. Head down to the 23rd floor. Last week I notified him that you would be coming and briefed him on the basics, so he should be expecting you.”

There was little to do but agree, so he nodded and turned to go.

“Oh and Charles,” his father called, making him turn back once more, “try to behave yourself.”

*

Charles spent as little time as possible on the upper floors of the company, so the clean open layout of the 23rd floor surprised him a little when he arrived. There were no cubicles, and people were freely discussing matters across their desks, some with chairs pulled up to desks nearby, motioning to graphs on monitors. There were smaller, closed off offices along the wall though, so he started making his way toward those. A few people looked up as he moved through the floor, until one woman stood.

“Can I help you?” she asked. She looked friendly enough with her soft brown eyes and stylish business attire.

“I’m looking for the director of marketing,” he replied, and more heads turned to look at him with something like pity.

“Corner office,” said the woman, pointing towards it. “Good luck.”

Charles knew better than to poke around these minds, but he couldn’t help a cursory look. Everyone was wondering who had decided to throw fresh meat to the shark. Charles was curious enough to dig further, but he held himself back and made his way to the corner office. The door was open, but the man inside was bent intently over his desk, face mostly hidden by his computer, so Charles knocked on the doorframe.

“Hello, I’m Charles Xa—”

The man looked up around his screen, and Charles choked on his words.

Hottie. Hot guy. Rough night. Was sitting right there in front of him, a shiny silver name plaque announcing him to be Erik Lehnsherr, Director of Marketing.

If Charles hadn’t been a telepath, he probably wouldn’t have caught the slight widening of the man’s eyes, his only visible shock. His mind, however, shouted quite clearly, Fuck.

They stared at each other for a moment, a strange heavy silence sitting between them. Charles had no idea what to do or say. What was proper etiquette in a situation like this? He had had this man’s massive cock in his mouth last night, and now he was supposed to say “hello, how do you do”?

“Why don’t you come in and sit down,” the man -- no, his name was Erik Lehnsherr -- offered, breaking the silence. Charles took a deep breath, closed the door behind him, and took a seat on the opposite side of Lehnsherr’s desk. All the while, Lehnsherr’s intense stare never left him.

Charles could feel Lehnsherr’s mind reeling itself back into order, compartmentalizing what was happening and slipping back into cool professional mode.

“I heard from your father that you would be arriving today. I’m Erik Lehnsherr, in charge of marketing and assigned to look after you for the next month.” Apparently, they wouldn’t be talking about last night then. Charles wasn’t sure if he was relieved or disappointed.

“Charles Xavier,” he returned, reaching across the desk to shake Lehnsherr’s hand, trying not to think about how that hand had felt twined in his sweaty hair. “I’m in your care.”

“I’ve heard from Brian that you have an extremely analytical brain.” His tone was laced with enough skepticism that Charles was mildly offended. “So I have a project for you to work on. Moira’s taking lead on it, so she’ll be directly supervising you. Let me call her in here.” He tapped out something on his keyboard and soon there was a knock at the door, and the same woman from before slipped in, looking wary.

“Moira, this is Charles Xavier.” Her eyes widened. “He’ll be spending a month here, and I’m assigning him to work with you on the Calmatin project.”

Moira nodded quickly. “Yes, sir. We’ll start immediately.”

Lehnsherr didn’t nod in response. “Good. Go on then.”

“Come on, Charles,” Moira motioned to him somewhat frantically, Lehnsherr’s attention already back on his screen, eyes narrowed.

It all felt far too brisk and formal -- for god’s sake, they’d fucked last night -- and though Charles had no idea what he wanted to say to Lehnsherr, he still couldn’t believe he wasn’t going to say a word about it. With little other choice presented to him, he shook it off and followed Moira out.

Eyes followed him less than subtly as they made their way to Moira’s desk, but Moira ignored them, patting the empty desk next to her.

“This is you,” she said with a friendly smile, looking far more relaxed now that she was out of Lehnsherr’s presence. She motioned to the other three people sitting at their group of desks, who were all eyeing Charles curiously. “Our helper has arrived,” she told them. “Meet Charles Xavier.”

The red-head’s mouth actually fell open, but the other reactions were less intense, just sharp inhales of breaths and wide eyes.

“As in, Xavier Industries Charles Xavier?” a blonde with icy eyes asked.

“That’s me,” Charles replied, giving them his best winning smile. He knew he wasn’t exactly exciting tabloid material, but he was still heir to one of the world’s largest companies, so it wasn’t surprising that people knew his name, if not his face.

Moira introduced them all. Emma Frost, Sean Cassidy, and Armando Munoz, all mutants, Charles noted, including a telepath, which was quite unusual for a business. Charles liked to think Xavier Industries was above all that, but any corporation was wary of telepaths due to the ease with which they could steal corporate secrets should they want to. Hell, the company’s board members were often wary of Charles, and he was in line to be CEO.

The team seemed pleasant enough, Charles decided, and as he was settling into his seat, Moira turned to him. “I hope Erik didn’t say anything to scare you off. He’s always a bit of a dick, but he’s been in an especially horrible mood this morning.”

“Oh,” Charles said. “No, he was, uh... fine.”

Moira looked at him skeptically before seemingly dismissing it. “So how are you with pivot tables?”

*

Charles had no idea “marketing” was a codeword for eight hours of excel. The day had been interrupted only by lunch and Lehnsherr coming out from his office periodically, slamming reports down onto desks and demanding they be redone, or storming up to hunched over employees and unleashing massive dressing-downs. Charles was beginning to see where the fear and trepidation he sensed was coming from, and Lehnsherr’s face as he tore an employee to shreds was most definitely predator-like.

Charles’ eyes were stinging and bloodshot by the time Moira told him he could call it a day. He nodded blearily at her, but told her he just wanted to finish up with one last data set, unable to leave until he was sure everything was perfect.

As he continued to plod on through the numbers, more and more people were packing up and heading home. He wasn’t sure when it happened, but he must have fallen asleep because suddenly he was jerked awake by the sharp sting of surprise in a mind nearby. He pulled his face from where it was smashed into the keyboard and turned to find Lehnsherr looking at him.

“Sleeping on the job?” Charles assumed it was a joke, but the tone was utterly flat.

“Uh,” he responded still half-asleep, noticing that the office was now almost entirely empty, just one man bent over a desk across the room, keys clacking away.

“My office,” Lehnsherr commanded, and Charles must have made a face because he added, somewhat more gently, “please.”

Shutting himself back in Lehnsherr’s office immediately brought back the outrageousness of the situation. He sat in the same chair and they stared at each other again, just as they had that morning. Lehnsherr certainly hadn’t suffered much throughout the day, the lines of his suit still crisp and clean, and his hair still tamed perfectly. Charles felt downright frumpy in comparison.

“I need to speak with you before this goes on any longer,” Lehnsherr started, breaking the awkward silence. “If you feel in any way uncomfortable with this, I can tell Brian that this isn’t going to work and ask him to send you somewhere else.”

Charles found himself floundering, surprised that Lehnsherr was going to bring up what had happened after all. He stalled for a moment by shifting in his chair so he could comfortably cross his legs. “You’re not actually my boss in any way that counts, you know. I am still on the R&D payroll, you can’t fire me, and the moment I want to be done with this, I can just walk away and tell my father to piss off.”

Lehnsherr raised an eyebrow. “Well, I guess we can set that issue aside then. Seems like you’ll be fine.”

Charles hesitated a moment, but Lehnsherr didn’t continue.

“If that’s all then…?” Charles hedged, though he could feel the press from Lehnsherr’s mind, a thought he was desperate to voice but holding back. Lehnsherr nodded, so Charles stood up, making his way to the door, his hand on the knob before he heard the squeak of Lehnsherr’s chair and the sound of his movement, long legs taking him across the office in a few strides, his hand landing on Charles’ and effectively stopping his exit.

Charles turned to find Lehnsherr’s eyes darting over his face. “Are you... all right?” He sounded lost. “I mean, I woke up and you were gone, and I know we had both been drinking, so I just…”

Lehnsherr didn’t strike him as the type to trail off, so Charles took mercy on him and pulled the thought that was sitting there precariously on the edge of his mind, hoping to topple over and out of his mouth.

“Oh,” Charles said as the realization hit him hard. “It’s not like that at all. I was definitely drunk, but I was enthusiastically consenting in all actions. Please don’t think otherwise.”

The tension left Lehnsherr all at once, his shoulders sagging. His hand still sat on top of Charles’, warm and distracting, and Charles took the time to fully appreciate Lehnsherr’s gorgeousness once again, the shade of his eyes and the sharpness of his features unbearably Charles’ type. Lehnsherr’s mind was trying to reorganize itself again, but stray thoughts were pushing out, magnified by their contact, and Charles caught pieces of them, he just left, thank god, his lips tumbling around.

Lehnsherr came back to himself suddenly, his shoulders straightening as he let go of Charles’ hand and stepped away. “That’s good then.” His voice was low. “Goodnight, Charles.”

Charles swallowed. “Goodnight.”

*

Charles didn’t really do relationships, friendships or otherwise. Sure, he’d tried when he was younger, but most people tired of him quickly.

“Too much,” they said.

The complaints were all different, but each one stung. He talked too much, prattled on and on about boring things like genetics and mutant rights. He had too much money, was frivolous and spoiled and knew nothing of hardship. He was too intelligent, and his friends felt inadequate in his company. He had too much power, and a telepath wasn’t to be trusted.

“He thinks he’s better than all the rest of us,” his best friend had said, unaware Charles was just around the corner. “But he’s really just annoying, like an overeager puppy sticking his nose everywhere. He drives me crazy.”

He gave up on friends after that. It was much easier to be friendly with everyone and friends with no one.

When it came to love, he didn’t fare much better. Charles fell and fell hard, and he knew it was often too much too fast, but he couldn’t stop, not when he felt the taste of an extraordinary mind. It outstripped the physical completely. It was the greatest high, an instant addiction that kept him wanting more and more, but that was when they pulled back, wary of his power and his influence.

“What did you do to me?” his last boyfriend had demanded when Charles had slipped into his mind hoping to share their echoing feelings. His voice was shaking and tears were streaming down his face. “Get the fuck out of my head!”

It had apparently been too much.

Charles gave up on love after that. One-night stands were much easier. It had taken him a while to perfect it, but he’d developed a good system that had worked well for him the past few years. Meet man, go back to his place, fuck like animals, and slip out before any awkward talk could ensue. He rarely fell asleep, usually preferring to slink home and sleep in his own bed, but when he did make the mistake of conking out, he was sure to be up and out in the morning with the least amount of conversation possible. No coffee chats or weird hungover breakfasts for him.

The most important rule for one-night stands, however, was no touching of minds. Charles found that anytime he reached into a mind during intimacy, especially the complex and beautiful ones, he found himself falling in a bit too deep, and his partner would jerk away, wide-eyed and panicked. It was hard to resist, but training himself just to stick to surface thoughts even when getting pounded into the mattress had been an important skill to learn. In the last year, he’d stopped even exchanging names with his fucks, taking out the last option for forming attachments. Now, he was a well-oiled one-night stand machine.

The fact that Lehnsherr was no longer an anonymous fuck was a bit of a wrench in said well-oiled machine, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle.

Chapter Text

Charles walked into work on Monday morning, eager to get started on the next part of Moira’s assignment, when he spotted his father leaning against the doorframe of Lehnsherr’s office with a smile on his face, obviously conversing with the man inside. His father caught sight of him and called him over.

“And how’s my boy doing?” his father asked, ruffling Charles’ hair simply because he knew it annoyed him. Charles glared daggers at him but received only indulgent laughter in return.

Lehnsherr was watching the exchange intently, eyes flitting between the two of them. “He’s become quite the data analyst. Moira said the team is actually ahead of schedule at this point.”

“I knew you could do this business stuff too, Charles. Why do you always resist me so?”

“I like science,” Charles said petulantly, annoyed that dealing with his father always left him feeling and acting like a ten year-old.

“Yes, yes,” his father said, sending Erik a see-what-I-have-to-deal-with smile. “I have to thank you for taking such great care of my son, Erik.”

Erik’s face colored faintly. Charles could have sworn the man almost looked guilty. “It’s been my pleasure.”

*

Charles had barely managed to sit at his desk before Moira was on him. “The results from all of our panels are in. I need you to go through and organize negative, positive, and neutral, and include any comments or feedback we might find helpful. We’ve got to make sure we put this drug out there with the perfect message, or it’s all going to go ugly fast.”

Charles nodded, opening the file Moira had sent to him and set to work. His sighing must have been more frequent and louder than he thought because Emma interrupted him mid-afternoon. “Something you’d like to share with the class?”

“Sorry, I just… I designed this drug to help young mutants, not to suppress them or, god forbid, take away their powers. Seeing the mixed reactions toward it is just making me a bit... sad, I guess.”

“Wait,” Armando cut in. “You developed Calmatin?”

Charles blinked. “Yes, along with my partner Hank.”

“Oh my god!” Sean burst out, but similar waves of shock were rolling around the minds of the team.

“What did you think I did?” Charles asked warily.

Emma smirked. “You’re the son of one of the richest men in the country. I assumed yachting, gambling, and partying with hookers.”

“Getting high,” Sean added.

Moira was looking at him like she’d never seen him before. “You’re amazing.”

Charles basked in the praise for a moment and then remembered it was proper to act a bit more demure and joked, “I’m still horrible at marketing.”

“We’ll fix that,” Moira said, smiling encouragingly.

The week seemed to both drag and speed by, work keeping him incredibly busy. Charles was immensely grateful by the time Friday rolled around because he hadn’t had a drop all week and desperately needed a drink.

“Emma, Sean, and I are heading to a place, if you’d like to join,” Moira said, pulling on her coat. At Charles’ confused expression, she continued, “You’re projecting.”

“I’m so sorry about that,” he said, scrambling to apologize, “I promise it won’t happen again.”

She looked a little confused. “It’s no big deal. You coming?”

“Sure,” he replied, pleasantly surprised by her nonchalance. “I’d love to tag along.”

He found himself at a trendy bar, pushed into a round booth. Emma ordered them all something with a girly name that turned out to be extremely strong, and Charles decided to never let her order for him again. He was starting in on a gin and tonic when Emma answered her cellphone.

“Yeah, we’re here.” A pause. “What?” She reached up to plug the ear not pressed to her phone. “He’s here, sure. Come on.” She hung up abruptly enough to be rude, but Charles knew better than to call Emma out on anything.

What he didn’t expect was for Lehnsherr to walk in a short while later, somehow managing to look both tired and flawless, like a glorious statue that was only slightly worn. Charles tried to swallow his surprise. Of course Lehnsherr would come to a bar. Hell, they met at a bar. There was no reason for Charles to care either way, but Moira was tugging on his arm, pulling him further into the booth to make space. Lehnsherr eyed the table, and hesitated before taking the spot next to Charles even though it was the only one open.

Charles told himself he was not offended.

“What are you having?” Emma asked.

“Nothing you would pick,” Lehnsherr quipped and got himself a scotch on the rocks.

Lehnsherr was warm along his side, and Charles was acutely aware of every place they touched, from the brush of an elbow to the occasional press of a thigh. Lehnsherr was a known entity in the office, but now that they were back in the atmosphere of a bar, Charles’ mind seemed to be overridden by his cock. He was so absorbed in Lehnsherr’s magnificent jawline that he missed half of the conversation.

“Charles!” Moira called. “Hello!”

He tore his gaze away from Lehnsherr to face her across the table.

“There he is,” Emma smirked as she took another sip of her strangely colored drink. “Where’d you fly off to?”

Charles’ face heated. “Ah, you know, just a lot of minds here. I can get kind of distracted sometimes.”

Emma hummed, but Charles didn’t know if it was in agreement or not. “We were just heckling Moira here about her lack of dating prowess. Did you know she hasn’t been on a date for over two years?”

“Emma!” Moira objected, but Emma plowed on.

“Look at her though, who wouldn’t want a piece of that?” Moira blushed furiously and swatted at her.

Lehnsherr joined in, amusement in his voice, “Maybe you two could start a club. When’s the last time you had more than a one-night stand? You broke up with Scott almost a year ago, as I recall.”

“There will be no mention of that name here,” Emma shot back, but her glare only drew out giggles from Moira and a smirk from Lehnsherr. “Not to mention, look who’s talking, Mr. I Am Too Good for Even One-Night Stands Lehnsherr, using a cold and aloof facade to cover your soft Disney princess center.”

Charles watched Lehnsherr’s face, expecting anger or at least a denial, but all he said was, “Call me Belle.” The whole table collapsed into laughter, Sean choking on his drink and Emma admitting defeat with a clink of her glass to Lehnsherr’s.

This was a side of the man he hadn’t yet seen, relaxed and laughing, witty and clever. He may have been a strict boss, but he obviously left that at the office. In fact, the whole team was at ease together, obviously friends, even the standoffish telepathic Emma, and Charles felt a little spark of hope flare to life.

He was careful to contribute to the conversation after that, glad to see his new team found his somewhat dorky jokes funny, and happy enough to laugh freely when they made jabs at him.

He pouted magnificently when they declared his pickup lines horrendous and downright lame. “I’ve had a lot of success with those I’ll have you know.”

“I’m sure you have,” Moira said indulgently.

“I’m not sure why you bother with these joke lines anyway. You should just say ‘I’m Charles Xavier, and I’m extremely rich.’ I think that would take care of it,” Emma said.

“That would work on me!” Sean declared.

“What about you then, Erik?” Emma asked. “Tell us your best pickup line. It can’t be worse than unzipping genes.”

Lehnsherr took another sip of his drink, brow furrowing. “I’m not sure I use pickup lines.”

Charles wanted to object, but then he remembered he was the one who had approached Lehnsherr, and though he didn’t remember the line he had used, it had probably been pretty embarrassing.

“It’s probably something about mutations,” Emma said and then smiled wickedly. “Hey, Charles, did you know Erik has a serious fetish for strong mutations, especially physical ones?”

Charles’ brows rose. “I did not know that.”

“His last boyfriend was red.”

“That’s enough about my lovelife,” Lehnsherr interrupted smoothly. “It’s quite boring anyway.”

“Fine, fine,” Emma allowed, but couldn’t resist one last shot. “Maybe the next one will have spikes.”

Laughter went around the table again, and Lehnsherr smiled tolerantly, looking around at them all before his eyes settled on Charles. “I don’t think so.”

Suddenly Charles’ realization that his bladder was full felt extremely important. “I need to head to the restroom. Would you mind letting me out, Mr. Lehnsherr?”

He started to move immediately, standing so Charles could slide out, a small smile pulling at his thin lips as he looked down at Charles. “Mr. Lehnsherr?”

Charles titled his head. “That is your name.”

“You should call me Erik. You technically outrank me anyway, Mr. Future CEO.”

“Right,” Charles said, offering a small smile back and testing out the name, “Erik.”

It wasn’t until he’d made it to the bathroom that he noticed his were palms sweaty.

He was washing his hands when a niggle in his mind let him know someone was nearby and he glanced up, meeting a man’s eyes in the mirror. He was tall and lean with dark hair and pale eyes, dressed in a beaten-up leather jacket that made him look rather rugged and mysterious. It didn’t take a telepath to know what the man was offering, and frankly, he was rather Charles’ type, so he gave him an encouraging wink. A quick sweep across his thoughts showed him to be no danger and extremely interested in dragging Charles from this bar and peeling off his clothes with little finesse. That sounded very good indeed.

Charles made his way back to the table where drink had definitely taken its toll, and Moira was a giggling mess as Sean made animal shapes with his hands. Even Erik looked to have succumbed somewhat, a lock of his usually perfect hair falling into his face.

“I’m heading out,” Charles announced to the table, and they all turned to him. Charles’ paramour had followed at a respectable distance, but could clearly be seen standing behind him, hands in his pockets.

“Noooo, Charles, don’t go yet,” Moira whined. Emma shushed her.

Erik’s eyes were looking straight over Charles’ shoulder, gaze hard. Charles ignored that, pulling on his coat and buttoning it up.

Erik reached out to take his wrist, gently tugging Charles closer to him. “Did you drink too much? Are you all right?” he asked, his breath warm and smelling lightly of scotch, his eyes searching Charles’ face.

Charles’ pulse sped up again. “I’m fine,” he managed, voice sounding strange even in his own ears. He pulled out of Erik’s loose grasp. “See you guys next week.”

Everyone gave a wave, except Erik who simply watched as Charles turned to go. Charles' hook-up for the night placed his hand low on Charles’ back as he escorted him out, and Charles could feel Erik’s eyes on him all the way to the door.

*

Charles woke in his own bed on Saturday morning, having left the man’s apartment as soon as they finished, making it a completely successful encounter by his standards. That the sex had been lackluster was unfortunate, but Charles wasn’t really sure who was to blame for that. He hadn’t been as into it as usual. He shrugged it off. These things happened. Not everyone was going to be a beast in the sack.

This line of thought triggered memories of Erik, and Charles was about to push them roughly aside when he realized in the confusion and shock of the last few weeks, he hadn’t actually ever taken the time to lay back and appreciate just what an amazing lay Erik had been.

Charles couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason, but everything had been perfect down to the last detail. Not just Erik's perfect face and sexy body and huge cock -- though all of those had certainly helped -- but something else.

Charles had been drunk of course, but he could remember every last detail now. His deep, rich scent, his lightly accented voice, the low sexy way he moaned when Charles had taken the head of his cock into his mouth, the perfect grip he had on Charles’ hair as he pulled him up into a filthy kiss, the hot whisper against Charles’ ear as he asked permission to fuck him. The slow and agonizing preparation, Erik driving him crazy with his clever fingers, until Charles was begging mindlessly, and finally, finally, his hands warm on Charles’ thighs, looking utterly wrecked as he pushed into him carefully, body quivering as he kept his movement slow and steady, sweat beading along his temple. His thick, hot cock stretched Charles just the way he liked it, pleasure bordering on pain, and he stared down at Charles like he couldn’t possibly be real as he bottomed out, pupils blown so wide the green was barely visible. Then there was only the perfect blissful slide of their bodies, rough and fast and hard, but also agonizingly sweet as he watched Charles’ face raptly, demanded Charles open his eyes and look at him, kissed him like he couldn’t get enough.

Charles pulled himself from the memories, but the feel of Erik’s body moving on top of his remained as a phantom sensation, and Charles wasn’t surprised to find himself hard, turned on more by the memories of Erik than he had been last night as a man had actually been sucking him off.

That probably wasn’t good.

He reached into his boxers, ready for a quick and perfunctory wank, taking his cock into his hand and setting an easy rhythm. He scrolled through his rolodex of default fantasies -- various asses and six-packs and cocks -- but his mind wandered to and settled on hands, more specifically Erik’s hands, warm and confident and larger than Charles’ own. He bit his lip, thinking of them moving along his body, their strength as they hitched up Charles’ thighs…

He closed his eyes, leaning his head further back into his pillow and spreading his legs wider as his hand continued to move, gaining speed as he let the fantasy build. Erik was there, kissing him messily as he thrust in deep, angle just right as each stroke sent a jolt of pleasure through Charles, his shameless moans muffled by Erik’s mouth. Erik adjusted their position, and Charles was nearly folded in half as his knees were pushed to his shoulders, dragging a groan from them both as Erik slid even deeper, his face twisted in pleasure. Charles couldn’t tear his eyes from the gorgeous sight of Erik completely undone, and they were both close now, their heavy breathing and the squeaks of the bed the only sounds in the world as the speed and pleasure built between them. And there, just out of reach, was the glimmering lure of Erik’s mind, intricate and sharp, and Charles was desperate for a taste, Erik’s thoughts open and waiting, and he could slide in seamlessly and -- fuck.

A cry tore from Charles as he came hard into his own hand, chest heaving as he lay with his cock only half out of his boxers, utterly spent and dizzy with his fading fantasy. Surfacing from it was like waking with a hangover after an idiotic night out, nausea stirring under his skin and shame settling into the pit of his stomach like a rock. Stupid enough for him to be thinking of Erik while jerking off, but to actually come to the thought of touching Erik’s mind?

That definitely wasn’t good.

In a half-panic, he ran to the shower, cleaning away any signs of his body and mind’s betrayal and trying to clear his thoughts. Fantasy, he reminded himself, nothing but a harmless fantasy. It was nothing that he would ever actually do -- he wasn’t fucking Erik again, and he certainly wasn’t ever going to be inside his mind -- so there was no need to worry. Erik had been an awesome lay and the chemistry had been off the charts, so of course he was going to become wank fodder. This was all quite normal. He resolved to dismiss it, but his distress refused to be completely washed down the drain.

He did the only thing he could think of. He called Raven.

“What did you do now?” she answered.

Charles bristled. “Can’t a man call his sister?”

“Yes, but what have you done?”

He sighed. “I fucked my boss.”

Her response was so shrill he held the phone away from his ear for a moment.

“I didn’t know he was going to be my boss at the time to be fair. And technically he’s not really my boss anyway, and we barely even work together, but good old Dad thinks he’s going to teach me to be some sort of marketing genius, which, by the way, is never going to happen.”

“You’re going to have to stop there and rewind a bit.” She was back to sounding annoyed. “I swear to god, Charles, you need to learn to keep it in your pants.”

So he told her, every detail, not the gory ones, but enough that she got the picture and hoped desperately she would have some good advice for him.

“I’m not really sure what you want me to say,” she said finally. “I mean, you like this guy, so why don’t you just let him know that and fuck him again?”

“What?” Charles choked out. “I don’t like him, I like having sex with him. There is a distinct and important difference there.”

“Then skip the ‘I like you’ part and just jump him.”

“You know I don’t fuck the same guy twice.”

“Then don’t jump him? I’m honestly not sure why you called.”

Charles pouted, put out enough that he didn’t care that she couldn’t see it. “You’re not being very helpful.”

“I’m pretty sure the help you need is above my pay grade, but thank you for being as slutty and useless as usual. You’re the one constant in my life. I’m going to go and meet some friends for lunch now. You might try something like that sometime. You know, friends.”

“I have plenty of friends,” Charles objected.

Raven sighed instead of calling him out on that and hung up.

Chapter Text

Two and half weeks since Charles had started work in the marketing department, and he was now positive he had a problem.

His eyes followed Erik everywhere.

The man moved with grace and decisiveness, and as Charles was finding more and more, was not only brilliant at his job, but also a brilliant boss. What Charles had assumed was just plain terror he now found was actually a potent mix of fear and respect accompanied by an intense urge to please. The employees wanted to be good enough for Erik, wanted to earn his acknowledgement, and instead of withering under his harsh words, came up kicking and dove back into what they were working on with new gusto.

Not only that, but Charles noticed that Erik only yelled and berated when he knew the employee could do better, never placing undue pressure on someone he thought could not rise to the occasion. All in all, the man was looking less and less like a boss from hell and more and more like some weird sort of psychology genius.

The Calmatin project was moving along well, and PR was in overdrive, working to smooth over any other public concerns about the gentle suppressant, assuring mutant groups that it was made only to mute powers and make them easier to control, targeted especially for children with dangerous and unpredictable mutations to ensure they didn’t hurt themselves or anyone else.

Marketing was doing everything possible to help along this process from displaying images of happy mutant families laughing together and thanking Calmatin for giving them peace of mind to desperate testimonials from older mutants whose mutations caused them chronic pain, praising Calmatin for giving them relief without cutting them off completely from their powers.

Armando was tasked with social media, responding to as many queries as he could, jumping from Facebook to Twitter and even an AMA on reddit. Whenever he lacked the full knowledge necessary for the answer, he asked Charles, who was happy to fill him in, hoping to educate the public on just how beneficial this drug could be.

Erik was overseeing everything more closely, stopping by constantly to confer with Moira to assess how the launch was going. He was quick and efficient with his decisions, making it easy to follow his lead and simply plow forward through the mass of work waiting to be finished. Even with the rushed schedule, he made time to oversee Charles, clapping him on the shoulder when he was happy with the work Charles had accomplished, leaving Charles feeling warm and giddy from the praise.

Another day of working late into the night, and Charles was starting feel the lack of sleep catching up with him. As he and Moira packed up to leave, most of the office dark and computers all powered down, Charles realized the light was still on in Erik’s office.

“I’m just going to go ask if there’s anything I can help with,” Charles told Moira, motioning to the corner office.

She eyed him. “Overachiever. I’m getting out of here, so see you tomorrow.”

Charles sent her off with a wave before heading over to the light, knocking lightly on the door frame.

Erik looked up from the thick file he was leafing through and met Charles’ gaze. “Yes?”

Charles faltered. The man was certainly intimidating when he wanted to be. “Is there anything I can do to help, Erik?”

Erik stood from his desk and came around to the front, leaning back against it. Charles took that as an invitation and moved further into the office, Erik watching him until he came to a stop at a respectable distance.

“You confuse me, Charles,” Erik said without preamble. Charles shifted awkwardly, waiting for Erik to continue. “Brian tells me his genius son is on the way to study up on marketing, but the day before his big new assignment, said genius son is out getting rip-roaring drunk and picking up strangers.”

Charles started to object, but Erik held up a hand to stop him. “So I must admit, I was quite confused. Is this guy another useless pampered rich boy, or is he an actual asset to this company? Then I watch you work, and I can see that you’re good, more than good sometimes, and I start to think you’ve really got your shit together. Then we go drinking last Friday and you literally pick up a stranger in the bathroom and saunter out in front of all your co-workers, and we’re back to square one.” Erik’s assessing gaze was cool enough to chill. “So which is it, Charles? Reckless idiot or genius scientist?”

Charles stood still, staring at Erik as his mind reeled, trying to process all that had just been thrown at him. He wasn’t sure if he was being complimented or insulted, so he took a deep breath and replied, “Can’t I be both?”

Erik laughed, though it wasn’t quite a friendly one. “You can be whatever you want to be, of course. I have no say in it outside of this office.” He paused, smoothing down his already wrinkle-free shirt. “I should admit I was prepared to hate you from the start since I knew you were the developer of Calmatin.”

“What?” Charles asked, perplexed. “You’re in charge of all the branding we’ve done for it. You’ve made it sound like gold.”

“Of course,” Erik replied dismissively. “That’s my job. But that doesn’t mean I agree with any drug that hampers mutant powers at all whatsoever, and if you think that drug isn’t going to be used for the wrong purposes, you’re not only reckless but also naive.”

Charles’ confusion morphed quickly into anger, and he stepped into Erik’s space, meeting his eyes defiantly. “That drug is going to help thousands of kids who can’t control their potentially dangerous powers and alleviate the suffering of those with painful mutations.”

Erik stood up then, using his full height advantage to glare back. “And that drug is going to be used by parents who just want their kids to be normal and probably even someday by police anytime they come into contact with a mutant.”

“The good outweighs the bad on this one, Erik. It’s nothing like the suppressants that have been out there until now. It doesn’t take away the powers, just makes them smaller and more manageable until they can learn to handle them on their own. Trust me, I volunteered for the trial.”

“I did too,” Erik snapped back. They were nearly nose-to-nose now, Erik’s breath fanning hot across Charles’ face. “I had to know what it was like, and maybe it was better than those other complete suppressants, but it’s a dangerous line.” He paused, his lips thinning. “I want to help mutants too, Charles, that’s why I’m going through with this whole campaign, but I won’t tell you you’re right.”

Charles smiled right into Erik’s face. “I already know I'm right so there's no need for you to tell me.” He expected the quip to lighten the mood, but Erik was staring at him just as intensely, and his eyes flicked down to Charles’ lips.

“You confuse me, Charles Xavier,” he breathed into the narrow space between them.

Charles felt drunk on the closeness, Erik’s familiar scent surrounding him. “The feeling’s mutual,” he murmured.

A knock on the door frame sent them jumping apart, and Charles had to blink a few times before he could right his mind.

Janos from PR stood at the door, looking hesitant as his eyes flicked back and forth between Erik and Charles. “I sent you something Scott wants looked at right away.”

Erik was the most ruffled Charles had ever seen him in the office, color high on his cheeks, but he nodded and moved back to his seat behind his desk. “Tell him I’m on it.”

“Thanks,” Janos said, and beat a hasty retreat.

Charles hesitated for a moment himself, but Erik was concentrating completely on the screen, and whatever had just happened between them was obviously over.

“Goodnight then,” he said, pleased his voice stayed even.

“Good work today, Charles,” Erik answered, eyes never leaving the screen.

*

“Team,” Moira said, her hair a mess from repeatedly running her hands through it and the bags under her eyes nearing purple, “we did it! Whatever happens from now on, know that we worked our asses off for this and did a damn good job.”

“Yes, we did,” Sean agreed, putting out his hand, palm down. “Hands in everyone.” Armando threw his on immediately, followed by Moira, and finally Emma, who had to pause to roll her eyes first. Charles laid his gently on top, smiling the smile of the truly relieved.

“Okay, ‘go team’ on three. One, two, three!”

Their yell filled the office as they threw their hands up, and a few of the surrounding employees gave them smiles and applause. Erik was standing nearby, a small smile on his face.

“Good job, everyone,” he said, coming to stand at the end of their row of desks. “There’s an official party tonight, paid for entirely by our beloved CEO, so remember to show up. All teams and departments involved in Calmatin will be there, so let’s not make marketing look bad by not attending.” He looked at their haggard faces for a moment. “You might want to go home and take a rest first. It starts at eight.”

Charles looked around at his teammates, everyone thoroughly enthused by the thought of the party, and decided it would be best to go. Sean offered him another high five and Charles laughed. It felt good to have accomplished this much in only three weeks.

The party was like every other large company function Charles had attended, except this time he had people he actually wanted to talk to, making it infinitely more bearable. Everyone had gone home to change, coming back in much more stylish and decidedly less wrinkled clothing. Though the rest of the team was in the normal trendy business attire of the department, Emma was glowing in fitted white dress, her assets expertly but tastefully on display. Charles found it so perfectly Emma that he was delighted, telling her immediately that she looked ravishing.

“Out of your league, sugar,” she chided with a wink.

After a speech and a toast led by Brian Xavier himself, the party was fully underway, food and drink in great supply. Charles downed his toast champagne and bypassed the buffet and went straight to the bar, lifting another champagne glass and downing that one as well. There, that certainly felt a little better.

He grabbed one more glass before meandering back to Moira and Emma who were talking with Janos. He listened politely to the conversation, trying to catch up to what they were talking about when Janos’ and Moira’s eyes caught something over his shoulder and shot wide.

Charles turned to find his father striding up, his assistant in tow.

“How are you all this evening? I hope you’re enjoying yourselves,” he said jovially. Apparently, being randomly approached by the CEO was not a common happening for the employees of Xavier Industries, and Charles watched in amusement as even Emma lost her cool, though naturally she was the first to recover.

“It’s wonderful, Mr. Xavier. You have exquisite taste,” she said demurely.

He smiled easily. “And I hope my useless son hasn’t been too much trouble.”

“Not at all,” Moira said, smiling at Charles. “He’s actually been a huge help.”

Charles beamed. “See?”

His father laughed. “Erik’s already told me all about it. Sounds like he wants to keep you.”

Charles' face heated. “You promised one month.”

“Yes, I know.” He turned his attention back to the group. “Please enjoy yourselves and make sure Charles here doesn’t get too inebriated.”

Charles groaned, but his father just laughed again as he walked away, his ever-present assistant scurrying at his heels.

All three of them were watching Charles’ reaction with amusement.

“Drink responsibly,” Emma said primly.

“Traitors,” he declared, and left to get another drink.

And so the night went, Charles stopping occasionally to chat with Moira and Emma, moving on to where Sean and Armando were talking to some ladies from HR. He spotted Erik across the room, surrounded by older stern-looking men whom Charles assumed were other department heads, and Charles was struck by just how capable Erik must be to be in such a position at such a young age. He was debating whether or not to head in Erik’s direction when he ran into Hank, who instantly straightened from his hunched posture when he saw Charles. Hank rarely attended these kinds of social events, but he was a sight for sore eyes indeed.

Hank was the only lab partner who had stuck by Charles back when they were in college, completely unconcerned that he was a telepath and laughing off anyone who implied Charles might try to pry into his mind and steal his research. After graduation, Charles had insisted upon Hank being hired by Xavier Industries, unable to bear the thought of a mind like Hank’s being snatched up by someone else.

They talked shop as Charles continued grabbing glasses from trays as waiters came by. When he was having trouble keeping up with Hank’s new topic, he realized he had most definitely reached the tipsy point.

“I might call it a night,” Charles told him. “But it was great to see you. I’ll be back in a week, so hold off a bit longer on any huge breakthroughs, please.”

Hank waved him off. “As if I could get anywhere without you.”

Charles laughed, “Yes, good, that was the right answer, Hank. Have a good night.”

He drained the rest of his glass before setting it down carelessly on a nearby table and navigating his way out of the ballroom. He stopped by coat check, tapping his little plastic number on the counter as he waited, and thanked the clerk when he received his coat. He pulled it on and ventured outside into the chilly night, the crisp air doing a bit to clear his head.

He didn’t expect to see Erik standing there, waiting in the line for a cab.

Charles moved right up next to him, their shoulders bumping before he spoke. “Cold night.”

Erik turned to look at Charles. “A bit early to be heading home for you, isn’t it?”

“I have my early nights,” he replied easily. “Sometimes.”

Erik huffed a laugh, and Charles found it extremely hard to look away. “We should share a cab,” he announced. Erik’s eyebrows raised. “Your apartment is on the way to mine. We could save a few bucks.”

“The heir of Xavier Industries, worried about cab fare.”

Charles punched him lightly on the arm. “I’m just concerned about the poor proletariat like you.”

Erik laughed again, the skin around his eyes crinkling. “Sounds good then.”

They rode mostly in silence, just the occasional comment on a restaurant or shop they passed. Alcohol usually made Charles a constant chatterer, but even with the tipsiness, he found it easy enough to sit with Erik and just be, and was surprised to feel the cab pull over to a stop, realizing he’d completely lost track of the passage of time.

Maybe he was more drunk than he thought.

Erik handed some money to Charles and slipped out the door, his movement graceful as always. “See you on Monday,” he said and shut the door.

“Where to next?” the driver asked, but Charles was still staring at the door Erik had just closed, his mind abuzz. He pulled out a few more bills and handed them to the driver with a rushed, “Keep the change,” and bolted from the cab to catch up to Erik.

Erik turned at the sound of the footsteps, face a mask of confusion as Charles ran up to him. “Did I forget something?” he asked.

“Take me up with you,” Charles blurted, face heating. Erik blinked at down at him, once, twice. “Please.” Charles reached out and took hold of Erik’s arm and Erik’s eyes followed the movement, resting on the place of contact between them. The whoosh of cars passing by sounded incredibly distant.

“All right,” Erik said finally, tone low.

Charles released a breath he didn’t know he was holding.

They rode the elevator and walked down the hall in silence, and Charles watched as Erik skipped the keys and opened the apartment door with a flick of his wrist instead. He let Charles enter first, pulling the door closed behind himself, and toeing off his shoes. Charles followed suit, the both of them in the narrow entryway, shoulders brushing as they moved.

“Let me just make us some tea, and we can talk,” Erik said as he unbuttoned his coat. When Charles didn’t answer, Erik turned to look at him. “You like tea, ri—”

Erik’s lips were chilled from the wind outside, but they were soft and perfect against Charles' own. Erik was frozen in surprise, his body tense, but then Charles ran his tongue along the line of Erik’s mouth, and Erik gasped as if suddenly coming to life. He backed Charles into the wall, bracketing him in and kissing him like was dying for it, licking into Charles’ mouth with something like desperation. Charles would have felt overwhelmed if he wasn’t so busy trying to get closer to Erik, fisting his hands in Erik’s hair. Erik began trailing kisses down along Charles’ jaw, open-mouthed and wet as he moved onto the line of his neck, and Charles moaned and arched up into it, the chill on their skin completely banished by the heat between them.

“Bedroom,” Erik growled into the curve of Charles’ neck, and they stumbled through the apartment, fumbling and discarding clothes as they went, hands desperately grasping for each other. Charles tripped as he tried to step out of his trousers, but Erik steadied him with a tight grip on his hips, slowly backing Charles up until his knees hit the bed and he sank down, pulling Erik with him.

It was the perfect kind of deja vu. Erik’s scent surrounding him, Erik’s strong hands moving down along his body, and the hitch of Erik’s breath when Charles nipped the sensitive spot right below his ear. Erik grabbed Charles’ wrists, pinning them to the bed and trapping Charles in a deep, filthy kiss that left his cock aching and had him struggling in Erik’s grasp, thrilled by Erik’s strength but hungry for more friction. Charles let out a low whine, and Erik released his wrists, hands sliding into Charles’ hair instead. Charles ran his hands down Erik’s neck, clawing at his back and pushing their bodies tightly together, pulling groans from them both as Erik’s full warm weight pressed down on him. Even this close, skin-to-skin with nothing but heat between them, Charles grabbing handfuls of Erik’s ass and guiding his movements so they hit just right, it wasn’t enough, and even as Erik claimed Charles’ mouth in another searing kiss, Charles wanted more. He had to have more.

Without thought, he pushed frantically into Erik’s mind, neat and orderly but absolutely bursting with passion and thrumming with power, and oh god yes, this was it, the feeling he’d been chasing. Charles was drunk off of it, riding the waves of Erik’s pleasure and his own as they mixed, and Erik’s movements stilled for a moment.

“Charles?” Erik panted against his lips, his voice low and dulled with arousal.

It was like being hit with a bucket of ice water, Charles' chest constricting as his entire body tensed under Erik’s. Erik drew back, brow furrowed in concern, though his pupils were still blown wide. “Charles, are you okay?”

Charles’ mind was racing in panic, pulse pounding in his ears. What the fuck was he doing? In Erik’s bed, again, breaking his own rules. Fucking him twice was bad enough, but going into his mind? It was one thing to fantasize about it, but to actually do it? Had he gone completely insane?

Erik was kneeling next to him now, giving Charles room to breathe and looking lost. “Charles,” he said. “Charles, what’s wrong? Oh god, are you drunk? Did I—” The words caught in Erik’s throat.

Charles got his breathing under control and turned to look at Erik. “No, no, it’s…”

Erik’s relief leaked from his mind, though guilt and confusion were still swirling around, making Charles dizzy with their strength. “What is it, Charles?”

“Your mind, I— Oh, god, I’m so sorry,” he choked out. He had to get away. He need to get out now. He’d violated Erik completely, and Erik had no idea.

“What?”

“This was a mistake.” Charles pushed himself up from the bed and began the search for his clothes on shaky legs, pulling on his trousers and grabbing his wrinkled shirt.

Erik stood, watching him cautiously and hesitant to approach. “You saw something you didn’t like in my mind?”

It was the greatest thing I’ve ever felt, Charles wanted to say, I never wanted to leave. But, god, how terrifying would that be? Erik would never speak to him again.

“I…”

“You saw it then. My mind, the things I feel, all of it,” Erik cut in, tone flat, and the shift was palpable, his withdraw not only physical but also mental, something heavy settling between them.

Charles took a deep breath. “Yes.”

“This isn’t what you wanted.”

“No, I’m so sorry, Erik.” His hands were trembling as he buttoned his shirt, the adrenaline making him weak and uncoordinated. “I should never have come here.”

A spark of anger ignited in Erik’s mind, hot and sharp, and he took a step closer. “Then why did you come here, Charles? I don’t understand you at all. What do you want?”

Charles dropped his hands to his sides, unable to meet Erik’s eyes. “I don’t know what I want.”

Erik’s anger and frustration was clouding the air, and Charles couldn’t block it out, not after he’d had such close contact with Erik’s mind, and the realization made him nauseous.

“No, I think you do.” Erik’s tone was sharp enough to cut, and Charles found the courage to meet Erik’s eyes, a face-off across the narrow space between them. “You wanted another easy fuck, and there I was. How convenient I must be. Is that how this works, Charles? You just throw yourself at the first available taker?” He huffed out an ugly laugh. “Get off on them wanting you? But they can’t like you too much, because what’s the fun in that?”

Charles felt bile rising in his throat, unsure how it had come to this, and he started to move towards Erik, wanting to offer a denial or explanation, though he wasn’t sure he had one, his mind horrifically blank.

Erik caught himself and took a few deep breaths, his voice dropping to a soft murmur, half to himself. “God, Charles, you had to have known already, and you came here anyway...” He ran his hands through his hair, the movement jerky and agitated. “Was this some kind of pity fuck? And you just couldn’t go through with it...”

Charles reeled as if he’d been struck. “Erik, what? It’s not—”

Erik turned away, shoulders slumped, refusing to look at him. “I don’t need your pity fuck.”

“Erik, I—” But there was nothing for Charles to say. After a painful silence, he spoke again. “I’ll… I’ll go.”

When Erik didn’t say anything or even turn back to him, Charles turned and left the bedroom, moving through the apartment as the blood pounded in his ears. Erik didn’t follow him, so Charles let himself out. He made it all way back to his own apartment on autopilot, closing the door behind him before he collapsed to the floor, tucking his head between his knees and just trying to breathe.

Chapter Text

Monday dawned bleak and stormy, and Charles, who never bothered with things like umbrellas, was dripping wet by the time he arrived at the office, droplets falling from the ends of his hair.

The team laughed at him, taking a moment to enjoy his drowned-rat look, but Armando was kind enough to hand him a towel and Charles ran it over his face and ruffled it over his hair. The nausea that had followed him to the office seemed to abate with the light atmosphere and the friendly smiles of his teammates. Charles could sense Erik was close, not in his corner office, but perhaps one or two floors up, his mind like a beacon now that Charles had reached so deeply into it. He cursed his lack of control again, viciously pushing down any thoughts of what had occurred on Friday night and shoring up his shields. He opened the new slew of copy Moira had sent to him and set to work proofing them, letting his mind sink completely into the work.

“Moira.” The sound of Erik’s voice made Charles flinch. “The new copy is going to be double-checked by the end of today.” It was said flatly, half-question, half-order, and Charles took a deep breath, turning to take in Erik’s appearance. He looked exactly the same as he always did, suit sleek and fitted, not a hair out of place, but his face was utterly blank, deep lines around his eyes and his lips thin.

“Yes, Charles is doing the final check for me,” she replied, brow furrowing as she looked at him. Erik’s gaze strayed over Moira’s shoulder to Charles, and the blankness flickered.

“See that he does it right,” he said shortly and left.

“Whoa,” Sean said. “What’s up with him?”

Emma was staring at Charles, an assessing look in her eyes. “Looks like someone had a bad weekend.”

Charles ignored her soundly and went back to work, but his concentration was completely shot. Erik had looked… rough. He’d looked right through Charles, and that was no doubt for the best, but there was a dull ache spreading in his chest. He wanted to run after Erik and apologize again, beg him to forget anything ever happened between them, and go back to the easy camaraderie that had been building between them.

He wanted to run after Erik and throw himself into Erik’s arms and kiss him breathless.

The thoughts tumbled around endlessly in his head, a constant replay of anger and pain and confusion. Everything had happened so quickly and gone so horribly wrong, and he didn’t know where to even begin sorting through it. The image of Erik’s defeated back was burned into his mind and knowing that he’d hurt Erik made his stomach twist. But the things Erik had said and accused him of… that had hurt just as fiercely. Charles resisted the urge to groan and bury his head in his hands, and tried to concentrate on work, but the nausea didn’t abate.

Moira poked him in the shoulder what could have been minutes or hours later. “Almost done?” she asked hopefully.

Charles glanced at the clock on his screen and groaned when he spotted the time, well past 6:00. “Yes, they’re finished. Should I submit them?”

“Yeah, make sure creative gets them ASAP. We’ll be able to have the online portion up by tomorrow hopefully, though the print ones will take longer.” She patted him on the back. “You look pretty beat, want to head home early today?”

Charles gave her a grateful smile. “In that case, I’ll send these and be on my way.”

Charles stumbled home, still in a daze. He hadn’t spotted Erik for the rest of the day and had kept his shields especially strong to prevent even grazing the man’s mind. He grabbed a bottle of scotch from his cabinet and took a swig straight from it, relishing the burn as it slid down his throat. He drank until his mind was pleasantly dulled and was only then able to fall into a restless sleep.

Tuesday passed in another haze of working, Charles numbly flicking through data sheets and listlessly reporting to Moira about a possible issue with low income families being unable to afford the drug.

Moira gave him a tight smile. “Sorry, Charles. That’s not really our area.”

“If they handed us the budget for it?”

“Then we’d add it to every campaign. It’s a boost for our PR but also makes the drug marketable to those we’d otherwise have to write-off. It’s definitely something to think about, if you happen to catch your dad’s ear.” She winked.

He laughed. “My father does very little listening and much, much more talking.”

“Still,” she said encouragingly, “you’re getting more and more into this business stuff. Think you might want to give up the labs?”

Charles sent her a look of mock offense. “I can’t wait to get away from you people.”

She grinned at him. “I love you too, Charles.”

“I love all of you,” Sean cut in.

“Get back to work, all of you.” Erik’s voice was loud and commanding as he strode up to their desks, ripping through the easy atmosphere and replacing it with thick tension. Sean immediately averted his eyes.

“Moira, Charles, my office, now,” he barked. Charles shot Moira a panicked look, but she only shrugged in return, though tension was apparent in the lines of her body.

They followed Erik to his office, rushing to keep up with the pace of his long stride. Other employees watched out of the corner of their eyes, curious but not eager to catch the attention of Erik in this particular mood.

Moira and Charles stepped into the office gingerly, pulling the door shut. Erik paced back and forth for a moment, running his hands over his face once before whirling on them. “The copy,” he gritted out. “Who was responsible for checking those?”

“Me, sir,” Moira replied, stepping forward bravely. “Charles assisted in the final check and sent them off yesterday.”

Erik’s eyes narrowed. “So explain to me why when I open up the Calmatin website, the first thing I see is an offensive slogan I specifically told you to cross off and an entire explanation piece about our new drug filled with typos!”

Moira turned to look at Charles, eyes wide, and his stomach sank. “I checked over the materials Moira sent me, and made sure to take care of all the parts that were marked with delete, remove, or revise.”

“Funny,” Erik spat as he stalked to the desk and spun his monitor around. “Because there they are!” Charles read the screen quickly, his throat closing up. It was a copy of the email he had sent to Creative and Design, and it was most definitely the unedited version.

“I sent them the wrong one,” Charles breathed, feeling numb even as his heart raced. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry, I’ve made a horrible mistake.”

“No,” Moira broke in, “I should have been monitoring him more carefully.”

Erik looked unmoved. “He’s not a child. He knows exactly what he’s doing, and this here is nothing less than a pathetic, amateur mistake. We’re going to have to cut everything they've already worked on and start over from the editing stage again. Not only that, but we’re going to have to issue public apologies to anyone who found this particular slogan offensive. PR is already working in overdrive.” He took a breath, though his hands were still shaking. “Moira, I want Emma to take over this time to make sure we don’t have a repeat.”

“Of course,” she replied immediately.

“And for god’s sake, put Charles back to using pivot tables or something.”

“Yes.” She looked to Charles, but he could only stare blankly at Erik, face pale.

“That’s all. Now get out,” he demanded, and Moira grabbed Charles’ arm and dragged him from the room.

He followed her back to their desks, operating merely on instinct as he sat in his chair and turned to his screen.

“Are you all right?” Moira asked.

Charles couldn't look at her. “I’m fine. Sorry for the mistake.” His eyes were prickling from humiliation, but he refused to let it show.

“Everyone makes mistakes,” she told him, and Charles nodded numbly, her words barely reaching him.

He was put back on simple analysis duty, but he could feel the pitying looks and thoughts being sent his way, along with a few annoyed ones because of the set-back he’d caused.

He apologized profusely to Moira and the team again before he left for the night. He thought about seeking out Erik as well, but his office was dark and when Charles felt for his mind, it was a few floors up, engaged in a meeting with angry executives.

The moment he got inside his apartment, he kicked off his shoes and dropped his bag and coat to the floor, ignoring them to go directly to the liquor cabinet.

He didn’t want to think about anything. Not Erik, not the project, not his massive mistake. Any other time, he would have ventured out to find a stranger to fall into bed with and lose himself, but even that thought left a bitter taste in his mouth. So he drank and drank, and let his mind wander. He’d fucked up everything, and it stung. It was one thing to ruin whatever had been blooming between Erik and him, but to let that go so far as to affect his work… It was too much. All his life he’d failed at relationships, and that ache was familiar, but he’d always been perfect in all other aspects -- 4.0 GPAs, valedictorian, precise and flawless in the labs. To fail at it all now was more than he could stand. He took another swig, forced to tip the bottle nearly vertical to help the little that remained slide down his throat, and finally, he made a decision.

*

The next morning, he bypassed the 23rd floor, going directly to the executive level and walking straight past his father’s assistant.

He knocked on the familiar frosted glass, waiting for an acknowledgement before he entered.

His father was seated on the couch, a file open on his lap, and a cup of tea steaming on the table in front of him. “I could feel you almost all the way down the hall,” he said, not even bothering to glance up. “Something’s gone wrong.”

“Yes,” Charles started, and was mortified to realize his voice was trembling slightly. “I’d like to quit marketing.”

His father looked up at that, the surprise on his face quickly morphing into concern as he took in the rather ragged state of his son. “Sit down and have some tea with me, Charles.”

Charles took the seat across from the couch gratefully, taking a few deep breaths to ease the lump in his throat. “I’ve messed up, Dad.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time.” His father’s smile was gentle and indulgent without a hint of mockery as he poured Charles a cup. “I’ve already heard from Erik about what happened with the copy. It caused a bit of a stir yesterday.”

Charles nodded slowly. “I don’t think I’m cut out for this.”

His father was watching him carefully, assessing. “Charles, everyone makes mistakes, even geniuses like you. You can’t be perfect at everything every time.”

Charles swallowed. “Please let me go back to the labs.”

“You’ve only got three more days to go, and I think you should finish what you’ve started.”

“I… I can’t this time. I’m sorry, Dad.”

His father watched him silently, and Charles felt very small. Finally, he spread his hands. “All right. You could’ve gone back anytime you wished, you know. I just wanted to push you a bit, get you outside of your comfort zone. I wanted you to see this through to prove to yourself that you really could do it.”

“I couldn’t,” Charles said dully, eyes downcast. “I couldn’t do it at all.”

“I’ll let them know you won’t be coming anymore then,” his father stated simply. Charles looked up at him, filling with relief, feeling some of his tension seep out.

“Thank you.” He stood and had made it all the way to the office door before his father’s voice stopped him.

“You can’t run away from everything, Charles.”

No, Charles was positive now, he certainly couldn’t. It always caught up to him eventually.

*

Charles made his way home where he decided to spend more time with his new friend brandy since his old friend scotch was empty. He was watching reruns of Say Yes to the Dress when he heard the sound of a key in his apartment door. Raven walked in, looking downright pissed and stormed over to stand above him where he was laid out on the couch, hands planted firmly on her hips.

“Charles Francis Xavier,” she said, “What the hell are you doing?”

He took another swig. “Did Dad call you?”

She swiped the bottle from his hand. “Yes, and apparently for good reason. You’re a fucking mess.” She set the bottle down out of his reach and grabbed the remote, turning off the TV.

“Hey,” he protested weakly. “I wanted to know if she was going to go with the fit and flare or the A-line.”

Raven simply eyed him. “Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

He pushed up from his sprawl, drawing his legs up to sit cross-legged instead. “I fucked up.”

“I’m sensing a pattern here.”

“I can’t deny that, but this time was spectacular even for me. Usually I only manage to ruin relationships, but this time I failed at work too.” He sighed. “Work is the only thing I’m good at, so now I am officially a failure at everything.”

Raven rolled her eyes. “Hold up there, drama queen. I already heard from Dad about the work thing, and seriously Charles, people make mistakes, you know, it’s not that big of a deal. But I’m assuming this has more to do with that boss you fucked considering you’re watching shitty reality TV and chugging brandy. You hate brandy. So spill.”

Charles ran his hands over his face, trying to figure out where to even begin. “I almost slept with him again. I don’t really do that, the sleeping with the same person twice thing, but we were getting along so well, and I just did what I always do.”

She nodded. “Shamelessly threw yourself at him. And what, he rejected you?”

Charles bit his lip, remembering the heat and desperation in Erik’s kiss. “No, I... I got too caught up in it, in him. I went right into his mind without permission.”

Raven’s expression softened, and she took a seat next to him on the couch. “How did he react?”

“He stopped. He was so confused and angry, and I was having trouble pulling away from his thoughts. It was a mess." Charles’ eyes were prickling, but he hadn’t cried for years, and he wasn’t about to let himself start now, so he tried to swallow it all down. "Then he accused me of using him and getting off on people wanting me.”

Raven winced. “To be fair, you kind of do that…”

He shook his head, drawing his arms around himself. “It wasn’t like that with him.” He met Raven’s gaze as evenly as he could. “He’s a bit of a hardass and completely stubborn, but he’s smart and funny, and whenever he praised me, I was happy and... It felt good to know he saw something in me.” He paused, looking down at his socked feet, the words coming less easily. “I wanted to sleep with him, of course, but it wasn’t just that. I wanted to get as close to him as possible, to know everything about him… I wanted to feel it all, the good and the bad, the real him.”

Raven was staring at him like she’d never seen him before. “Oh my god.”

“What?”

“You’re in love with him.”

“No,” Charles said automatically, the denial out of his mouth before the thought fully hit him, but then it did, and it was like being struck, a full-on kick to the chest.

Overwhelmed, the stinging heat in his eyes sharpened, and he felt the first tear slide down his cheek. “Oh my god.” He buried his face in his hands, squeezing his eyes shut. 

Raven was by his side in an instant, putting an arm around him and pulling him close. 

“I love him,” Charles said, voice shaky, unsure if he was admitting it to himself or to the world, but somehow saying it out loud made it more real, and more painful, the pull in his chest catching his breath. Now that he knew the feeling thrumming through his veins, it seemed impossible he could have failed to notice it before.

He was head-over-heels, stupidly in love with Erik Lehnsherr.

“Hey, it’s okay,” Raven said and gently pried his hands from his face. She was looking at him with a sad smile. “It’s good to see you, Charles. It’s been awhile.”

He blinked at her, still reeling from his revelation, and more tears fell. “You see me all the time.”

Her arm around him tightened. “I mean the real you. The one that’s buried under all that alcohol and sex and bravado.”

Charles wanted to deny it, blame everything happening right now on the brandy, say he didn’t know what she was talking about, but he couldn’t. He could barely remember the last time he’d just been himself, unafraid of the judgment of others and uninhibited by his own stifling expectations. “I’m a mess,” he admitted wetly. “I don’t even know how it came to this.”

Raven’s tone was soft and reassuring. “You’ve dealt with a lot of shit, Charles. My mutation’s not the easiest thing to deal with, but even other mutants have issues with telepathy. You’ve been hurt, and you put up your defenses. I could never blame you for that.” She bopped him gently on the side of the head. “Have you been my favorite person in the last few years?” She snorted. “Hell, no. But you’ve just lost your way.”

He gave in completely then, curling into her, not even caring that he was crying onto his little sister’s shoulder like a child. It wasn’t just Erik or his mistake. It was his whole carefully constructed world of rules crashing down around him, the very things he thought would prevent him from pain leading him to this point. He felt utterly exposed, unsure if he’d be able to stand and face the world with his last line of defense down, but god, for the first time in years, he wanted to try.

Raven rubbed his back comfortingly, letting him go through it, offering her silent support, and as he began to calm, he knew he was incredibly lucky to have her in his life and swore to himself to do better by her.

Once his body felt heavy and drained, he sat back and rubbed at his damp and no doubt blotchy face. Raven pulled a few tissues from the nearby box and handed him the wad.

“I messed up,” he managed, pausing to wipe at his face. “I've messed up a lot, and there's so much I need to fix.” His shoulders slumped. “I’m not even sure where to start.”

Raven smiled encouragingly. “One problem at a time.”

Chapter Text

Charles spent the next day composing emails to his team in marketing, wanting to apologize again for his mistake and his sudden disappearance but unable to yet face going to the office on the the off-chance he might run into Erik. He knew it was a coward move, but “Baby steps,” Raven had said, and he’d made something like friends for the first time in a long time, and he wanted them to know it.

He tried his best to pour his heart out as he typed, starting with Emma. He thanked her for her wit and smarts and for teasing him so easily that he felt he fit right into the team. He thanked Sean for his easy-going attitude and his check-ins when he saw that Charles was feeling really stressed. He thanked Armando for working with him on social media and for listening to everything he said about Calmatin with an open mind and heart. Finally, he wrote to Moira, thanking her for her patience and guidance, and apologizing for taking up so much of her time even though he was always meant to be a temporary transplant. He apologized again for his mistake and told her he hoped it had all worked out. At the end of each email, he left his number, telling them he’d love to see them again and they could call him at anytime, and he was pleased to find he genuinely meant it.

Finished with that, he moved on to his liquor cabinet, Raven’s suggestion echoing in his mind. He pulled out all the bottles, from cheap supermarket wine to his best single malt scotch whiskey, and poured each one of them down the drain, watching as the liquid swirled in the sink and disappeared. It wasn’t easy, and it ironically made him want a drink, but he persisted until there was nothing left but tonic water. He took a deep breath after he closed the newly empty cabinet, putting his hands on his hips and peering around the apartment. The apartment was a fantastic reflection of his life -- everything was a mess.

He set to cleaning, intending only to do the kitchen at first, but he fell so far into it he was soon scrubbing every last corner, down to the smallest tile in the bathroom. He did his laundry, changed his bedsheets, dusted above the curtain rods, and even organized his line of shoes by the door. It felt good to be in control of something, to set it in order and put it right.

He spent all of the next day reorganizing his books, smiling as he rediscovered old favorites that he’d marked heavily with notes and thoughts and reluctantly deciding to part with some in the interest of having a bit more space.

He was making a sandwich for dinner and musing on the rarity of spending a Friday night in when he heard the buzz of his intercom. He was surprised to see Moira’s face on the screen, but he buzzed her in immediately. Her knock on the door was firm and fittingly Moira, and he opened it to see her frowning face.

“Come in,” he said, offering her a hesitant smile, and he led her to the couch. “Would you like something to drink?”

“No, thanks, I’m fine.” She took a seat. Charles sat down on the nearby arm chair.

“This is a bit unexpected,” he admitted. “Though I’m glad to see you.”

Her face still held that frown. “Are you all right, Charles? You disappeared so suddenly, and Erik just said you wouldn’t be coming anymore. And then yesterday, I got your email, and honestly I was a bit worried. I just wanted to check on you.”

Her genuine concern made his throat tighten. “Thank you for coming, Moira. I’m doing all right, I promise. I just had to make a dramatic exit like I always do.”

She huffed out a small laugh. “If you’re worried about your mistake, it’s all right. It was only on the site for a few hours and we’ve already cleared it all up. I know Erik was harsh on you, but it really wasn’t so bad, so please don’t worry about it.”

The mention of Erik made Charles' heart stutter in his chest, but he offered Moira a weak smile. “Thank you.”

She leaned forward, as if she wanted to reach out to him. “Charles, look, I don’t know everything that happened between you and Erik.” Charles opened his mouth, but she held up a finger to silence him. “We could all see it, you know, we’re not blind. But I want you to know that while you were working with us, I went to a lot of meetings with him to take minutes, and anytime your name came up, he praised you to the heavens. When other department heads made jokes about him babysitting the spoiled prince, he told them you were one of the best workers and brightest people he’d ever met.”

The words were enough to make Charles want to cry again, but he took a deep, steadying breath. “I messed up.” She nodded, waiting for him to go on. “But I’m going to fix it,” he finished, determination creeping into his voice. It was a mantra he’d been repeating to himself constantly, and now, giving voice to it again with Moira here before him, he felt the stirring of confidence.

“Good,” she said with a real smile now. “He’s driving us crazy.”

She stayed to chat for a bit longer, making him promise to actually drop by and say hello to everyone else. “Sean feels especially abandoned,” she told him, and Charles laughed, weaker than usual, but genuine. She kissed him on the cheek before she left, leaving him with a glowing lightness in his chest. It felt good to have a friend.

*

“Charles, when I said baby steps, I meant it. This is like going straight from your first swimming lesson to the olympics.”

“No,” Charles said, switching his phone to the other ear. “This needs to happen now, or I’ll never be able to do it.”

“This is like that time we went skiing and you skipped the bunny hills and went straight to the moguls and broke your leg. That’s what this is.”

Charles huffed out a laugh. “Raven, I highly doubt apologizing to Erik is going to cause me to break any bones.”

“It’s only been a week,” she continued on over him. “You guys have barely had time to angst properly.”

He sighed, finally arriving at the door to Erik’s building. “I’m going in.”

“You sound like a spy!”

“Goodbye, Raven.”

“Good luck, Charles!”

He tucked the phone into his coat pocket and tilted his head back to look up at Erik’s building. He didn’t know Erik’s exact room number so he couldn’t buzz him, but he did remember that it was the second door on the left on the eleventh floor. The doorman was eyeing him curiously, so Charles attempted to blend in, trying not to look as if he was loitering. Finally, someone who lived in the building walked up, and Charles broke his own rules -- for a very important cause, he reminded himself -- and pressed his fingers to his temple, following the balding man in and completely escaping anyone’s notice. They boarded the elevator together, and Charles waited until the man got off on the eighth floor before letting out a breath and releasing the illusion, pressing the button for eleven.

He arrived at Erik’s floor with a ding and approached the door slowly, most of the courage he’d built up suddenly leaving him. He stood in front of Erik’s door for a few minutes, steadily breathing and trying to run through the speech he’d prepared again. Go in, apologize for being an asshole and a coward, tell Erik he was an awesome guy who deserved someone equally as awesome, and get out, relatively unscathed. Satisfied that he had a plan, he knocked on the door and waited, barely daring to breathe. It wasn’t until he got no response that it occurred to him that Erik might not be home. It was a Saturday, so he had simply assumed, but Erik could be anywhere, doing anything, maybe even out on a date with someone who didn’t call him a mistake to his face. Charles scanned the apartment just to be sure and found it empty.

He debated going home, knowing how easy it would be to turn and run now, but he squashed that impulse down, shaking his head. He was tired of running.

He sat down in front of Erik’s door instead, leaning his head back against it, and began to wait. He felt a bit absurd as other residents walked by, often side-eyeing him, but he just smiled weakly back, trying to exude an aura of harmlessness. The longer he waited, the more jumbled his thoughts became, and the more his worry increased, reigniting his instinct to run.

The ding of the elevator drew his attention, and he expected another middle-aged man to appear, but the doors opened to reveal Erik dressed casually in jeans and carrying a plastic bag. He froze when he saw Charles, his fist clenching and causing the plastic to crinkle. The elevator doors started to close again, but he held them open with his power, stepping out and making his way to his door, looming over Charles. “What are you doing here?”

Charles climbed to his feet gingerly, legs shaky and weak from the position he’d been sitting in. “I wanted to talk to you.”

Erik looked him straight in the eye, face completely unreadable. “Come on, then.”

Charles stepped aside, and Erik opened the door with a flick of his hand, holding it open long enough for Charles to enter as well. Erik toed off his shoes and padded out of the entryway, throwing his coat over the back of the couch, and Charles couldn’t help but be reminded of what had happened the last time he was standing here, Erik pressing him into the wall and kissing him breathless. He shook the image off, taking off his shoes and following Erik into the apartment, finding him in the kitchen pulling tupperware from the plastic bag and stacking them neatly in the fridge. He folded the plastic bag and set it aside on the counter before he turned to look at Charles, his face still blank.

“How long have you been waiting?”

“I’m not sure,” Charles answered honestly.

“What are you doing here, Charles?” The tone was neither kind nor harsh.

Charles took a hesitant step into the kitchen. “I came to apologize.”

Erik waved him off. “The mistake has already been taken care of, so don’t worry about it. I should apologize for going off on you like that. You were an amateur, so it wasn’t unexpected that you would make an amateur mistake. I’m sorry I let… other things leak over.”

Charles bit his lip. “Not for that. I mean, I am sorry for that, but I wanted to apologize for the other thing. For that night.”

Erik backed up, letting the counter take some of his weight and looking down at his feet. “That never should have happened. You were technically my subordinate, and my hands shouldn’t have been anywhere near you. It won’t happen again.”

Charles wanted to move closer, but Erik seemed impossibly far away and completely closed off. He clenched his fists and pushed on, trying to stick to the plan. “I never meant to make you feel… convenient. I never wanted to use you, Erik. I just want you to know that.”

Erik let out a breath, pushing off from the counter and coming toward Charles, close enough to lay a hand on his shoulder, a friendly but not intimate touch. “I appreciate you coming here to say that,” he said, voice soft. “It’s all right though, Charles. Let’s just put this behind us.” He smiled, but it was frayed around the edges. “You’re brilliant, and you’re going to keep doing great things. Good luck in the labs. Whatever you make next, I’ll make sure it sells.”

Charles’ heart sank. He’d only come to apologize, but somewhere deep down he’d been hoping… He cut off the thought. He knew a dismissal when he heard one, and after all the shit he’d put Erik through, he didn’t want to add to it, so he simply nodded slowly. Erik dropped his hand from Charles shoulder, and Charles turned, beginning to walk away. He made it to the doorway of the kitchen before he stopped, resting his hand on the frame, his whole body heavy. He turned to look back at Erik, taking in his slumped shoulders and tired face. “I’m not sure I can put it behind me,” he admitted.

Erik shut his eyes and took a shuddering breath. “Please don’t be cruel, Charles. You said it yourself. This was a mistake.”

Charles knew Erik wanted him gone, but he couldn’t make his impossibly heavy feet move. This was his last chance.

“You’re not a mistake,” Charles said, voice more even than he was expecting but still on the edge of breaking. “You were never a mistake, Erik.”

The lines around Erik’s eyes deepened. “You said it yourself, Charles.”

Charles stepped back into the kitchen, a new need surging through him. He needed to make Erik understand. “Not you,” he said, shaky but with conviction. “Never you. Going into your mind, that was the mistake. I’m so sorry I did something like that to you, but I need you to understand.” He shook his head. “I always try to control my power to make sure nothing like this happens, but I wanted you so badly, I couldn’t hold back.”

Erik was watching him, face wary. “Is that was this is about? Using your power?”

“I know I shouldn’t have,” Charles said quickly. “Every time I’ve done it things have gone wrong, but this time I...” He paused. “I can’t just let it go.”

Erik smiled sadly, and Charles could feel it coming, rising up in Erik’s thoughts. Erik wanted him to stay, still wanted him, but he was going to forgive him for this too and ask him to go, unbearably kind until the very end. “We all make mistakes, Charles. It’s all—”

“No!” Charles cried, and they both flinched, startled by the outburst as it echoed through the kitchen. “You’re no mistake. Meeting you might be the best thing I’ve ever done.” The words slipped out before he realized what he was saying. “I’m in love with you, Erik.”

The look of shock that crossed Erik’s face made Charles' heart clench. “You… love me?”

“Yes,” Charles replied, and it was all tumbling out, things he’d told himself he didn’t need to say, thinking that an apology would be enough, but he couldn’t stop now. He swallowed hard against the burning in his throat. “I just came here to apologize. You don’t even need to forgive me -- you probably shouldn’t -- but I want you to know that I love you. I didn’t even know the feeling until I met you. I’ve never felt anything like this before.” He laughed wetly. “I didn’t even recognize it.”

Erik closed the space between them, running his hand over his mouth and down his chin. “You saw what was in my mind, and you ran. If you loved me, then why did you run?”

“I shouldn’t have violated your mind— “

“No,” Erik cut him off, voice unsteady. “When you saw my feelings for you, why did you run?”

Charles blinked up at him, stunned. “I didn’t see anything like that.”

Erik pointed to his head. “You said you saw it, everything in my mind.”

“Yes, but… individual feelings, they’re hard to pick out and…”

“And?” Erik prompted gently.

Charles bowed his head. “I’ve never been in the mind of someone who loved me. I wouldn’t be able to recognize it, let alone even know what to look for.”

Erik let out a laugh, a thin and pathetic thing, and reached out to Charles, gently cupping his face and tilting it up so their eyes met. “You’re a rubbish telepath.”

“Hey,” Charles protested, but it was weak, Erik’s pale green eyes completely mesmerizing him.

“You have been, you know,” Erik murmured, “in a mind that loves you. Take a look.”

The entire room seemed to fall away, shapes becoming indistinct and formless, leaving only Erik and Charles staring at each other, and if not for Erik’s gentle hold, Charles might have stumbled, his knees suddenly weak. A well of hope rose inside him, sweet and tantalizing, the thought that maybe, finally, he could have what he’d always wanted but had told himself was an impossibility, things meant for others and never for him.

He hesitated, but Erik was sure, radiating openness and nodding, so Charles reached forward, cupping Erik’s face in his hands as well. He slid in, and it was like jumping into ice cold water on a hot day, stealing his breath. Erik’s feelings were a tangled ball in his usually orderly mind, and Charles was less than adept at sorting these things, but he pulled a thread, and Erik’s thoughts toward Charles tumbled out. His want spilled out first, strong and undeniable, fixated on Charles’ blue eyes and red lips and sturdy shoulders. And below that came the appreciation of Charles’ wit and intellect, the satisfaction of a good argument, and the thrill that Charles never backed down. The final layer had Charles dazzled and stunned. Erik’s admiration for his powers, for Charles’ strength and abilities, and a curiosity about them that ran deep. He craved the feeling of Charles in his mind again, and wanted access to Charles’ mind in return, a free give-and-take, nothing hidden between them.

With a jolt, Charles realized that all of this was Erik’s love -- not one isolated feeling, but the sum of them, Erik wanting every last bit of Charles. The average person would have seen Erik’s thoughts and pulled back thinking frantically, too much.

Luckily, Charles had always been a too-much kind of person.

Charles withdrew with a gasp, letting his hands drop from Erik’s face, a tendril of power still linking them.

“From the beginning…” Charles breathed, and because they were connected, Erik knew just what he was talking about.

“Emma wasn’t lying when she said I don’t really do one-night stands,” Erik said with a shaky smile, dropping his hands from Charles’ face and looking to the side. “You were funny and smart and gorgeous, and I wanted you, and then I took you home and I never wanted to let you to go.”

“Even from one night?”

“I know,” Erik said, running his hand through his hair. “It sounds crazy. God, Charles, I thought I would never see you again, and then you walked into that office, and I wanted to hate you, but all I could think about was how badly I wanted to kiss you again.”

Charles reached out tentatively to capture Erik’s hand, and Erik finally met his eyes again. “The feeling was mutual, though I think you can feel that now.”

“Yes, but it’s all muted. Can you…?” Erik asked, waggling his fingers by his temple. Charles beamed, and though all of it seemed too good to be true, completely unreal, he felt free to let his shields drop.

How’s this? he sent straight into Erik’s mind.

Erik looked delighted, all his teeth on display, but it was even better now, because Charles could feel his delight too.

Like this? Erik sent back, and Charles winced.

“We’re going to have to work a bit on it. You just yelled in my ear. In my mind ear, anyway.”

Erik laughed, open and unreserved, just as he had when they had all been sitting around in a bar, drinking in the closest thing to friendship Charles had had in years. It was a sound he thought he’d never hear again. “I’ll practice,” Erik promised, pressing a chaste kiss to Charles’ lips before pulling him into a hug.

Charles relaxed into Erik’s embrace, comforted by his presence, both mental and physical, and rubbed his face against Erik’s polo shirt, taking in Erik’s scent.

“Did you just wipe your nose on my shirt?”

Charles laughed and tightened his arms around Erik’s waist. Nothing had ever felt more right.

“If we’re going to do this,” Erik said into Charles’ hair, “I want us to start over. Do it from the beginning, and do it right.”

Charles nodded into Erik’s shirt.

“I’d like to take you out for coffee.”

Charles drew back far enough to look up into Erik’s eyes. “Coffee sounds great.”

Chapter Text

“Idiots,” Raven had said when Charles had recounted the story to her over glasses of sparkling grape juice. “You idiots completely deserve each other.”

Charles hadn’t even tried to deny it. Both he and Erik had been utterly blind. He’d thought back on his original plan to go to Erik and apologize and let that be their goodbye, and he’d laughed. How could he have ever thought he could just let Erik go?

Erik had taken Charles out for coffee the next day, and it had been weird and wonderful. Dating was something Charles didn’t really do, and he was sorely out of practice, but now that he was dating Erik, he was finding that he was thoroughly enjoying it. While he once would have deliberately gotten whip cream on his lips and slowly licked it off, doing his best to seduce and get into bed as quickly as possible, he found himself sipping his latte while listening to Erik talk, completely unconcerned with looking sexy. Erik already wanted him -- that wasn’t an issue -- but Erik wanted to know him, and that was something new and exciting that lit a spark inside of Charles.

He craved Erik’s attention, but not in the way he was used to. If he saw an interesting story on the news, he immediately wondered what Erik would think of it. When he read an article in a scientific journal on the latest research on the X-gene, he found himself calling up Erik to discuss it. Most of the time they argued, but Charles loved it. Erik pushed him to think, to prove himself, to do better. Charles hated sounding sappy, but he genuinely thought Erik was helping him become the better person he’d hoped to be.

The fears Charles held were also gradually being dispelled one-by-one, though banishing them completely would no doubt take more time. He was infinitely grateful that in their entire acquaintance, Erik had not once referred to anything about him as “too much.” He already knew Erik had no problems with his powers, and they often communicated without exchanging a word. Erik hadn’t been overwhelmed at all when Charles had declared the depth of his feelings, but he really shouldn’t have been, considering Charles had seen the staggering strength of Erik’s own. His wealth seemed to be a non-issue, and Charles’ intelligence appeared to be a turn on, judging by the way Erik’s pupils dilated when they got into a particularly heated debate.

Going out to dinner with Erik was an exquisite kind of torture, holding hands across the table and playing footsie like teenagers made his heart speed up and his face ache from grinning, but it never felt like enough. Saying goodbye at the end of the night was even harder, Charles not used to going home alone, but Erik had said he wanted to do things right this time, and Charles understood the impulse. He wanted this thing between them to last. Erik did, however, indulge him in long, deep goodnight kisses that left Charles half-hard and panting, and Erik’s perfect hair a mess.

Charles stopped by the marketing department often and was always warmed by their happiness to see him, even after his giant fuck up. Sean had pulled him into a hug the first time, and Armando had patted him on the back with a smile. Even Emma had warmed to him, thanking him for making Erik less of a horror and making her life easier. He often went out to dinner or to bars with them, Erik sometimes joining and sometimes not, and the first time he'd ordered a ginger ale, Emma and Moira had laughed, but when he’d told them he’d seriously stopped drinking, Moira had looked so genuinely proud of him that he'd blushed. The cravings for drink hadn’t left him completely, but the memory of how he’d felt when everything had spiraled out of control was a strong deterrent, and his new friends’ additional support helped him through the low times.

It had only been a month since he and Erik had reconciled, but it felt like his whole life had turned around, as if the clouds had finally lifted and let the sun break through.

He was in the labs, deep in concentration when Hank called out to him. Even Hank had noticed a change, telling Charles he was glad he’d found something to make him so happy, but he was looking at Charles with his brow furrowed now. “They said the executive floor is calling for you.”

Charles looked up from what he was doing, tilting his head. It was well past working hours, nearing 9:00. “Thanks for letting me know, Hank,” he said with a smile. “You’d better be on your way out.”

“I am,” Hank said, hanging his lab coat up and pulling his wool coat on. “Good luck with your dad.”

Charles offered him a wave. “Thanks. Have a good night.”

Charles hung up his own lab coat and made his way leisurely to the elevators. He hadn’t talked directly to his father since he’d run from the marketing department like a coward, and he wasn’t particularly looking forward to the lecture he was about to get. No doubt his father had been keeping tabs on him through Raven, and this meeting was sure to be quite mortifying.

He pressed the button for the highest floor and caught his reflection in the gleaming metal of the elevator doors and sighed. He attempted to smooth down his cardigan and tame his hair, but he was a rumpled mess. He shrugged as the doors opened, figuring his father had seen him looking much, much worse.

He approached the familiar frosted glass, but hesitated before knocking, surprised to feel the buzz of two extremely familiar minds in the office.

“Come in, Charles,” his father’s voice called before he had managed to knock, and he smiled sheepishly, stepping inside. Sure enough, his father was seated at his oversized desk looking intimidating, but Charles' eyes were immediately drawn to Erik who was seated in one of the two chairs in front of the desk, looking pristine in a gray suit.

What’s this? Charles sent.

Erik gave him the mental equivalent of a shrug, and Charles took a moment to be pleased at how well Erik had picked up on telepathic communication, an eager and gifted learner.

“Have a seat,” his father said, eyes looking back and forth between them, and Charles sat, resisting the automatic urge to reach out and take Erik’s hand, resting an elbow on the armrest of his chair instead.

“Before we start,” his father said, instantly commanding Charles’ and Erik’s attention, “I want you to know this has nothing to do with business and will in no way affect anything that happens here within the company. I called you both here as a father, nothing more, nothing less.”

Charles' eyes widened, knowing exactly where this was going and hating it instantly. Erik was very still beside him.

“I hear you two are dating.” Charles’ elbow slid from the armrest, and he completely lost his balance in the chair.

“Yes, sir,” Erik answered, seemingly unruffled while Charles was busy being dumbstruck, his mouth opening and closing uselessly.

“How old are you, Erik?” his father asked, steepling his fingers on his desk.

“Thirty-four, sir.”

“And how old is my son?”

“Twenty-six, sir.”

“And mentally, how old would you rate my son?” Erik’s eyebrows shot up.

Charles finally found his voice, still reeling from mortification. “What the hell, Dad!”

Erik, respectful as always, responded to the question, “Not only is he brilliant, but his opinions are also sophisticated and mature. Obviously, he still has some growing to do, but I think he’s already a great man who will only become greater with more experience.” Charles turned his open-mouthed stare to Erik, but couldn’t help the warmth that expanded throughout his chest, Erik’s praise never failing to touch him.

His father was staring at Erik with hard assessing eyes. “Do you love my son?”

“Dad!” Charles burst out, face hot with embarrassment. “Is this really necessary?”

Both men ignored the outburst, eyes locked in something like a duel. “Yes, I love him.”

His father sat back in his chair then, slowly shaking his head as he let out a chuckle. “You know, Erik, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I asked you to take care of my son.”

A rare flush spread over Erik’s cheeks. “I understand that, sir.”

“But if the two of you are happy, then by all means, continue on with my blessing.” His open and easy smile allowed them both to relax. Charles looked to Erik and their eyes met, and it felt okay then to reach out and link their hands.

That wasn’t so bad, Charles sent with a squeeze to Erik’s hand.

They startled as his father’s voice broke in again. “You two communicate mentally, I see.”

“Yes,” Charles said, unsurprised his father would notice the use of his powers, knowing the tilt of his head was often a dead giveaway to his family. The revelation made pleased thoughts bloom in his father’s mind, and the assurance that Erik was accepting of all of Charles cemented his total approval. Though no words left his mouth, Charles knew that meant the end of this life-shortening, utterly humiliating conversation.

“We can go then?” Charles asked, eager to escape.

“Yes,” his father said. “You’re free to go.”

They pushed back their chairs and stood together, walking to the door side by side, hands brushing. “One more thing,” his father called, stern voice stopping them in their tracks and forcing them to turn to face him. “If you break his heart, I won’t forgive you.”

“I won’t,” Erik said, voice deep with conviction.

“Thank you, Erik," his father said wryly, "but I was talking to Charles."

Charles rolled his eyes. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, Dad, but I’m serious about Erik, and I have zero intention of letting him go. Now feel free to stay out of our business.” He started towards the door again before pausing, eyes on the carpet. “And stop calling Raven to gossip about me. You have my number too, don’t you?”

His father let out a startled, fond laugh. “I’m proud of you, Charles. Keep up the good work. Both of you.” His father’s words filled him with lightness, the approval settling down in Charles’ heart, soft and comforting.

He and Erik let themselves out, making it to the elevator before completely letting their guard down, Charles collapsing onto Erik, burying his face in Erik’s shoulder and groaning. “That was the most mortifying experience of my entire life.”

Erik just wound an arm around Charles and put the other on the back of his neck, holding him close. “I feel like I just stared down a firing squad.” They both dissolved into relieved shaky laughter, depending on each other to stay steady and only separating when the elevator dinged at Erik’s floor.

“Meet you outside?” Erik asked, ears still red though the flush had faded from his face. Charles agreed and hurried down to the labs to tidy up and grab his coat.

He certainly hadn’t expected that from his father, but it was also no great surprise. With or without his father’s approval, he would have continued to date Erik, but knowing that they had his support was still a relief.

Erik was waiting for him outside, head tilted up toward the night sky and breath visible in the cold air. At this time of night, most of the employees had long gone home, and the area was mostly deserted. Charles trotted the last few steps until he was by Erik’s side, taking his hand with easy familiarity, delighted with the knowledge that he was free to do so at any time.

“I’m sorry for that..." Charles searched for the right words and failed to find them. "For whatever that was.” 

Erik shook his head. “Brian is a good man who loves his son. I expected nothing less.” Charles just hummed, pressing closer to Erik’s side, grateful for the heat of his body. They walked for a bit in silence before Erik broke it, an air of hesitation in his voice. “You meant what you said up there, right?”

Charles pulled to a sudden stop and tugged Erik to face him so he could gaze into those pale eyes, searching them. Two months ago, he could never have pictured this, not even in his wildest dreams, as he snuck out of a handsome man’s bed, hungover and self-loathing. Now, he was walking down the street, hand-in-hand with the man he loved with a contact list full of friends and a heart full of lightness. Absurdly, he suddenly felt like laughing or crying or screaming, all his emotions rushing up and bubbling to the surface, ready to burst.

“I meant every word,” he replied, never more sure of himself, voice thick with the confidence of his feelings. He took a deep breath and brought their faces close, letting his voice drop to a murmur. “I’m not letting you go.”

Erik smiled one of those easy, giddy smiles, the one that made him look young and unbearably vulnerable, the smile Charles had only ever seen directed at him, and his stomach performed a spectacular flip. The expression was brief, and Charles mourned its loss, but he couldn’t help but notice as Erik’s eyes traveled down his face, coming to settle on his lips. The air was crackling between them when Erik finally spoke, the low rumble of his voice enough to make Charles shiver.

“I think you should come home with me tonight.”

Charles licked his lips, unconscious of how it looked for once. “Yes, I think I should.”

Erik didn’t hesitate, leaning down to kiss Charles soundly right there in the middle of the street, sending a thrill through Charles’ whole body. Erik kissed him hard, no finesse and all passion, and his mind was leaking possessiveness, startlingly deep and greedy. Finally they parted, panting into the air between them, Erik’s lips still shining with wetness.

“Too much?” Erik asked, voice husky.

“Never,” Charles breathed, and looped his arms around Erik’s neck, pulling him down into another kiss.