“The others are quiet tonight,” Azazel observed, with a look up at the ceiling as if he could see through the floors to what clandestine operations might be taking place. He stood to refill his glass, but his tail remained wrapped firmly around Charles’ wrist while he did so. He returned with the bottle and topped off Charles’ glass, his tail only releasing Charles’ wrist when he sat back down on the couch, the length of his body once again pressing against the length of Charles’.
“They aren’t here,” Charles explained. “Sean’s cousin invited them to a costume party in the city, and they took the train in.”
Azazel’s mouth quirked. “Even McCoy?”
“Even Hank,” Charles said. “All three of them were dressed up in costumes. Halloween is only a few weeks away. I think he’s blending as well as he can manage, for the night.” He put his drink down on the side table and shifted around so that he partially hugged Azazel and ran his fingers lightly against his jaw. They had been enjoying each other’s company on the couch for the better part of the evening, drinking and touching, talking about all the small things of their lives. Charles hadn’t been at such ease in a long, long time. It wasn’t one of Azazel’s well-planned, thrilling dates, but Charles thought that basking in the quiet companionship was far more than their equal.
Azazel’s wry smile softened and he leaned into the embrace, his own drink abandoned, and curled his arms around Charles. He dropped light kisses against Charles’ temple, teasingly catching the curve of one ear, and then in the space behind his ear. Charles made a disappointed noise and twisted his head around to catch Azazel square on, and Azazel pressed in against him, acquiescing to finally being captured.
When they broke apart, Charles sighed with contentment and rested his head against the broad expanse of Azazel’s chest. He caught sight of the television, on but without sound, and the flickering movements of the dancers on The Lawrence Welk Show. Azazel followed his gaze. His tail flashed out and turned the television abruptly off.
After a long, considering pause, he leaned forward to whisper into Charles ear, “Would you care to dance with me?”
Charles snorted. “I wasn’t much of a dancer even when I had two left feet,” he said. “So perhaps it is a small mercy not to step on your toes. Your feet will thank me.”
“I think not.” Azazel gave a small growl and stood, bringing Charles with him, tail cinched tightly around Charles’ waist.
Chest to chest, Charles grinned. “I feel like a bit of a rag doll, but at least it’s solved the height problem.”
Azazel chuckled and suddenly swooped around the room in a dipping maneuver that felt entirely like something out of history. “I have been called a very accomplished dancer,” he revealed.
Charles had no doubt on that score. With the way Azazel moved, he could be nothing less than graceful in whatever he chose to do. Charles wrapped one arm around Azazel’s shoulder and put his other hand in Azazel’s and, heads held high, they skimmed across the room and back, waltzing to imaginary music. It was old-fashioned and a subtle reminder that Azazel was Charles’ elder by quite a lot more than it would appear, but it was also sweet and earnest. Charles was delighted in the movement, and the physical closeness of Azazel’s body against his own.
Azazel stopped near the record player. He released Charles into the nearby chair and paused to flick through the pile of records.
“Oh, ah—those aren’t going to be--” Charles waved his hands at Azazel. “—useful. Not a bit.”
Azazel’s eyebrows arched high, then higher. “Someone was very fond of John Philip Sousa,” he said, brandishing one record jacket. Then he held up another. “And of polkas.”
Charles covered his eyes and tried to get enough air in while he laughed. “My father,” he said, “had terrible taste in music.”
With a face-splitting grin, Azazel loaded one of the records and gently let the needle drop down.
“Don’t!” Charles warned, but he was laughing too hard to be as adamant as he wished.
“This was very popular during the war,” Azazel said. His face was serious, but his eyes were shining with amusement.
A moment later the thumping bass and the distinctive chords of an accordion came rolling out of the speakers. Azazel gathered Charles up again in his embrace and then went oomph-a-quick-stepping across the room. Charles was pressed so closely against Azazel that he felt as if they were just one unit, whirling in half-circles, and the music was ridiculous and infectious, and he was dancing with a partner, and exhilarated. When he looked at Azazel, he could see that he was having fun too, and he felt the mirth leaking from him, cresting and sustaining, and the plain happiness at being here and doing this. Charles just threw his head back and absorbed as much joy from the moment as he could.
Azazel landed them on the couch in a spiraling big finish for the end of the polka, and Charles couldn’t stop smiling and laughing, and holding Azazel. “You’re amazing,” Charles said. “And you weren’t exaggerating about your dancing prowess.” He had to nearly shout over the next polka as it started up.
Azazel teleported across the room, turned off the player, and was back next to Charles in less than a heartbeat. “I would never exaggerate about my accomplishments,” he said. His voice was suffused with warmth and humor as he asked, “Another polka? A military march? We have both to choose from.”
“No, no, please, no,” Charles said. “I think one is quite enough.” He sighed. “Too bad we couldn’t go out dancing,” he said. Then he pulled up short, sorry he’d said it.
“Why can’t we?” Azazel asked, his hands sliding under Charles’ shirt to rest easily on his hips. His hands were hot from the exertion and his fingers were splayed against Charles’ skin, making him think perhaps he’d had enough dancing altogether and should maneuver Azazel upstairs to the bedroom. Their relationship was still new, making his blood run hot and his head turn muzzy, and so far he wanted more of everything, from quiet conversation to dancing to making love. He’d yet to entice Azazel up to his bed, and he wanted that very much.
“No reason,” Charles said, “We could, I suppose.” He slid the fingers of one hand under the cuff of Azazel’s jacket and shirt, stroking his wrist.
Azazel leaned in against Charles’ ear. “Are you worried about me, or about you?” he whispered.
“Both,” Charles answered truthfully. He pulled back to look Azazel in the eyes with a direct gaze. “It would be a bit dangerous,” he said. “Two men together. One red. One unable to walk.” He shook his head. “We’d be sure to attract attention.”
“All the better reason to do so,” Azazel said, and his eyes blazed with intensity, and Charles opened his mouth to say something, but there was that wild burst of sensation that let him know that Azazel had teleported, and the next thing he knew, loud music was pounding in his ears. Charles was still growing accustomed to the impetuous teleporting, given the slightest hint of desire and Azazel moved quickly to fulfill any wish.
People were pressing in against them from all sides and Azazel had Charles snugged up against him. Lights flashed and sparkled, and Charles could feel the room vibrate with the beat of the drums. There were even women dancing on table tops. Azazel certainly knew where the dancing hot spots were to be found.
Charles closed his eyes to concentrate for a moment and he latched on to the lighting technician, then gave a very strong suggestion.
Azazel’s expression shifted into delight when a moment later the entire room was bathed in a red wash of light. The other patrons applauded, shouted, stomped, and whistled, and the dancing kept on.
Azazel twirled him around, entirely on-beat with the music. “How brilliant,” he said, and Charles could barely hear him over the music, but the words were clear on his mouth and in his mind. “Now we’re all red.” He considered Charles. “I believe you are quite fetching this way.”
Azazel danced him around the room until the song was over, and then Charles felt the peculiar wrenching of teleportation, and they were home again.
Azazel released him back into his chair, and then caressed his mouth with the tip of his tail. “One more dance. I’ll be right back,” he said, and vanished in a puff of flame and smoke. Charles smiled to himself. He certainly had ended up with an impulsive, flamboyant lover. Azazel returned a minute later with a record in his hands and a secret, guarded expression. He loaded the record and put the needle down, and for a moment there was only the slight hissing as the needle worked its way to the first song.
Azazel bent toward Charles with a hand out. “Shall we?” he asked.
“Absolutely,” Charles replied and took the offered hand. Azazel swept him up into his arms and rocked him back and forth gently as the music started. The notes were familiar and it took a moment of listening for Charles to realize it was a song he knew. “My parents used to dance to this,” he said as he tucked his head into the crook of Azazel’s neck and shoulder.
“It is a wonderful song for dancing,” Azazel agreed, and Charles noticed that his eyes were closed as he moved them along with the swing and sway of the music. His tail cinched just a tad tighter, and Azazel moved one hand to rest at the small of Charles’ back. “Only you beneath the moon or under the sun,” he whispered into Charles’ ear as the orchestral part of the song played on.
“And you call me the romantic,” Charles teased.
Azazel chuckled, and kept them flowing along with the movement. “Some have said the song is a bit…obsessive,” Azazel allowed.
Charles widened his eyes, questioning, and Azazel reversed their direction quickly, giving Charles a rush of momentum, and no answers at all.
Finally, a woman’s strong, rich voice began singing the lyrics. Charles thought the next set of lines, after Azazel’s impromptu quote, were particularly appropriate for a love affair with a teleporter. Near or far, it really didn’t matter where he was. He was only a teleport away. The music washed over him and Charles thought that he’d never really appreciated this song quite enough before. He brought one hand up to rest at the nape of Azazel’s neck, leaving it there for a while before finally pushing his face up and stealing a kiss away from Azazel, who still had his eyes closed.
“Charles….” Azazel said.
“Shall we dance upstairs?” Charles asked with a lift of an eyebrow.
“Absolutely,” Azazel replied, and his strong arms tightened around Charles as he released his tail to snag at Charles’ chair, and then there came the sensation of being suddenly in another place entirely.
They appeared just next to Charles’ bed, and Azazel pushed the wheelchair to the side, and rolled them softly onto the bed. Charles appreciated the thoughtfulness. With his chair remembered, he’d be able to be mobile in the morning without longing for it, left downstairs. But that was Azazel, and Charles still hadn’t quite reconciled the remorseless killer with the patient, gentlemanly lover.
At the moment, Charles didn’t have enough extra attention for introspection, however, as Azazel was doing something very clever with his fingers. He let his thoughts fly away, and just let himself sink in the experience of his lover trying very hard to please him.
A quiet noise woke Azazel and he tensed, listening. Charles was wrapped around him, and his eyes half-opened, looking drowsy, and still entirely sated. Azazel felt a spike of pride that he’d been so successful at making Charles come entirely undone.
“Just the others returning from their party,” Charles mumbled. He readjusted his position, spooning closer to Azazel. “Don’t go, just because they’re back,” he said, and Azazel ran a hand through Charles’ hair. He hadn’t even formed the words about his intention to depart, and Charles had plucked it out of his mind. It was a bit odd to have a lover who knew how you felt and thought.
“Stay for breakfast,” Charles said, opening one eye to check on Azazel, and then closing it again. “You aren’t worried about three young men giving you disapproving looks, are you?”
Azazel snorted. “You do know how to phrase a challenge,” he said. “Go back to sleep. I will not leave. Yet.”
“Good.” Charles was quiet, and a moment later his breathing evened out and Azazel knew he’d fallen asleep again. Azazel did not feel quite as safe and secure. Charles’ associates had made no disguise of their distaste for Azazel, and given their history, he understood why. McCoy harbored a particularly strong dislike, and each time he met him, Azazel was concerned they might come to blows. For Charles’ sake, he did not wish to have to fight with them.
Even though he wasn’t sleepy, Azazel didn’t move from the bed. It was enough to stay there, quiet and resting, with Charles curled beside him. Now, more than ever, Azazel felt strongly that he needed to remain working with Magneto. Azazel brushed his fingers lightly through Charles’ hair to his ear and trace the curve, contemplating. He wanted a world where he wasn’t feared just because of his appearance. That he’d stumbled upon the one individual in all the world who thought him beautiful because of his differences didn’t change that, and it was truly pure, dumb luck in that regard.
Mystique was right in one way, however, and it was that Charles did side with the humans. Azazel watched Charles sleep, and wondered if it would be the thing that would tear them apart, as it had done between Charles and Magneto. Azazel thought about Magneto, and his iron-clad control, and his repressive nature. No. Azazel had no intention of discarding this most precious pearl of his because of humans.
Eventually, he did sleep again, and when he woke, it was early morning. Charles was snoring lightly against him, but opened his eyes a moment later. “Hi,” he said. “You stayed.”
“I was very hungry. You mentioned breakfast,” Azazel said, teasing him.
“Oh, breakfast,” Charles said, a wicked glint in his eye, and then started to search his hands under the covers.
It was another hour before they recomposed themselves.
Charles sniffed the air as he settled himself into his wheelchair. “I smell coffee. The others must be up.” He glanced to Azazel. “I promise not to let them beat you up,” he said, and while his tone was light, it wasn’t hard to detect the genuine concern beneath it.
Azazel shook his head. “I doubt we’ll fight over the last cup of coffee,” he said, and teleported himself and Charles into the kitchen. He was relieved to see that it was empty.
Charles wheeled himself to the refrigerator. “You know, I don’t think I know yet how you take your coffee. Cream? Milk?”
Azazel pulled two mugs out of a nearby cabinet and set them down on the counter. “Unadulterated,” he said, and Charles looked to him at the word and two becoming spots of blush appeared high on his cheeks. Azazel moved the few feet to close the distance between them and bent to kiss Charles. “Not at all how I prefer my lovers,” he whispered as he wrapped his tail around one of Charles’ wrists, loving the feel of it, the momentary possession, the fragile bones and flesh beneath that Azazel protected, that he would never crush, never hurt. It was a heady emotion, to switch between intent to harm, and the overwhelming need to claim and keep safe. Mine, sang Azazel’s heart as he sank into the kiss with Charles, and Charles reached back for him, with strong hands and a guttural noise in the back of his throat that signaled desire and approval.
Then came the shrill mental diamond-edged whistle.
Charles pulled back. “I heard that,” he said, eyes wide. “Was that--”
“Emma Frost,” Azazel said. He kissed Charles again, lightly, an unspoken promise to return, and held Charles’ gaze as he teleported away. It was only ever stolen time with Charles, and Azazel hoped that the future might hold more opportunities for more courtship. There guttered a tightly held flame in his heart, and Azazel never wanted it to sputter out.
He appeared at their headquarters, where Emma was waiting.
“Out philandering with your many lovers?” Emma said off-handedly as she focused her attention on him.
“Always,” Azazel replied. He could see Mystique behind Emma, and her lovely yellow eyes were narrowed with suspicion and more than a hint of worry. He would have to make sure to speak with her later.
“You can play with them again later,” Emma continued, a naughty smirk hinting around her mouth, “we need your assistance with the latest plan.”
“Of course,” Azazel said, and gave her a slightly bowed acquiescence that put him at her service.