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The Barest Hint Of A Thought

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Erik walks into the bathroom before Charles is finished shaving and getting dressed. It's not as though they have any secrets from each other--Charles's modesty often seems like an annoying waste of time, and terribly out-of-character for a man with his lack of inhibitions--but even though Charles is simply shaving in front of the mirror, he yelps when he sees Erik and bends over the sink, two fingers at his temple. Erik catches a glimpse of purple and red, but--

"You could knock first," Charles says.

"You could shave faster," Erik counters. When Charles straightens, Erik looks at him in the mirror. There's nothing wrong, not a hair out of place, discounting the half-finished shaving job. There's certainly nothing red or purple on Charles's skin; perhaps there was a smudge on the mirror, an odd reflection.

Erik frowns--something's wrong about that--but he turns to the shower, adjusts the water, and steps in, pulling the curtain closed behind him.

Late at night, with the lights out and the blankets pulled up over both of them, Erik closes his eyes and lets Charles press his legs to his chest. It's a mindless sort of bliss, so rare for Erik, and every moment is cherished, perfect, Charles's cock a deep, aching weight in his body.

There are nights he comes with a gasp, almost hurting from the pleasure. And there are nights when it doesn't happen at all. Sometimes, by the time he comes to bed, he already feels worn out, and sex is just a way of connecting their minds and bodies, not a race to the finish. Some nights he wants to come, desperately wants to, clutches at Charles and begs and pleads--but he can't. He can't seem to come this way, can't find that urgently-needed release. He shakes, after, frustration a coiled heat within him, but Charles holds him close and strokes his back, pets his hair. Eventually, he sleeps.

He thinks, sometimes, if Charles would roll over, if he'd roll over and let Erik--let him--

They tried it once, he remembers. Sometimes he thinks it was more than once, but the memory of that one failed time is enough, surely he wouldn't have been so cruel as to ask for it again. Charles's spine was rigid, the pain obviously intense beyond words, and Charles's arms shook from the effort of holding himself upright.

By the time Erik stopped, Charles's lower lip was nearly bitten through, red and swollen. His eyes were bright and wet with tears.

"We'll try it again," he'd said, "I just--tonight's no good for me, I can't quite seem to relax." Erik never asked again. He doesn't think he's asked again, although the memory of Charles beneath him changes from time to time when he has occasion to recall it. Not memories, probably; dreams. He's dreamed of it.

A switch flips. Anger rushes through him like nothing he's ever felt before (unless he has; has he? Is this one of those things that's happened before? Déjà vu and Charles go together so perfectly, his memories tangled up with Charles's as he remembers things he never did and places he's never been; sometimes Erik thinks he will never know the difference between memory, dream, and thoughts he's picked up from Charles), and he's stalking across the room, grabbing Charles by the arms, banging him into the wall (carefully this time, not against the painting, the frames of hotel wall art have been known to bite uncomfortably into Charles's back when he wasn't looking out for them).

Charles looks up at him with wide, terrified eyes, panting out "No, no, stop, Erik, please--"

Erik slaps him. Barely. His palm brushes Charles's cheek, but it's not enough to even raise a faint pink mark. Charles's head snaps to the side, though, as if Erik gave him the full weight of a backhand, and he sags there, between the wall and Erik, panting.

"You'll do what I want?"

It's Charles, speaking. No, it's Erik. Charles's lips aren't moving. It's Erik's voice.

In either event, Charles nods.

"You won't fight?"

Charles shakes his head.

"Good. I'm not in the mood to fight you."

Erik's hands move to his fly, and he starts to unbuckle his belt. It's all mechanical, motions he's made thousands of times. He pushes his jeans down around his thighs, releases his cock from his boxers. He's surprised--more like astonished--to find he's hard, and not just hard enough to fuck and get the job done, but hard as though he hasn't managed to come in a week. Has it been that long?

"Get down," Erik's voice says roughly. Charles nods, tears rolling down his cheeks, and starts taking off his clothes. When he's naked, he goes to his knees and looks up, tearstained and swollen-mouthed and--

--and hard, his cock proudly jutting up between his legs.

Erik lashes out again, this time a backhand after all. He feels his knuckles brush lightly across Charles's cheek, but again, Charles's face snaps to the side, and he lifts a hand to his face, breathing hard as he recovers.

"Slut," Erik bites out. "Tell me you don't want this."

Charles winces, keeping his eyes shut for a few moments before he can speak. "Erik, please," Charles whispers, "please, I didn't mean it, I'll be good, just don't, don't--"

Erik's hand lashes out, but this time it's not to level a hit against Charles's face. He grips Charles's chin in his fingers, digs his thumb into Charles's cheek. "Open."

Charles takes a few slow, shuddering breaths, another tear sliding down his cheek--and then he does it, opens his mouth for Erik, lips vivid red even in the dim light. He places his tongue on his lower lip, perfect, so perfect, and when Erik rests the head of his cock against Charles's tongue, he can hear the mental sigh, can feel the longing suffusing that sigh.

But all the same, Erik puts his hand on the back of Charles's head, taking by force what Charles is giving him by choice, fucking hot and heavy into Charles's mouth. Charles reaches up and puts his hands on Erik's hips, but whether his hands are there to encourage Erik to take more or there to protect himself, brace himself against Erik's punishing thrusts, Erik's still doing the same thing, fucking Charles the same way.

Charles chokes as Erik forces him to take more, to swallow his whole length; still more tears fill his eyes and spill over his cheeks. Erik reaches down and brushes the tears away with the backs of his fingers, lifting his fingers to his mouth so he can taste the salt.

Charles's tears on his lips while he's fucking Charles's mouth; it's too much, all he needs to go over the edge, and he gives Charles one more thrust, takes that last burst of pleasure he needs to come. He holds Charles in place until he's done, and then he lets go, stepping away all in one motion, leaving Charles to crash down on the floor. Charles catches himself with one hand, the other coming up to his throat while he coughs and tries to breathe.

And Erik thinks: Dear God, what--

Frozen in place, he's not sure whether to reach out for Charles, beg forgiveness, open up a fucking vein--what did I do, my God, what did I do--

Charles's head snaps up, and his eyes narrow. He moves the hand that was rubbing at his throat, puts his fingertips to his temple--

Erik wakes up nestled against Charles's back, face pressed to the back of Charles's neck. He gets an arm around Charles's waist and hugs him, kissing his neck.

Charles stirs, rubs up against Erik, humming out a happy sound. The sound gets cut off right away, though, and Charles draws a hand to his throat, coughing softly.

Erik brings himself up on an elbow, brushing strands of hair from Charles's forehead. "Are you all right?"

"Mm," Charles says, but he winces. «Yes, I'm fine; sore throat this morning, that's all.»

"Do you need anything?" Erik glances back over his shoulder; the hotel room has an electric kettle, a selection of teabags. "I could make tea."

Charles nods. «Yes, please. Earl Grey if--»

"--if they have it, yes, I know." Erik presses a kiss to Charles's shoulder and climbs out of bed--or starts to; Charles catches his forearm and holds him there. Erik raises his eyebrows.

«Nothing,» Charles thinks, «nothing important.»

"What is it?"

«Nothing, I--» Charles shakes his head, looks down at the covers. «I love you.»

Erik laughs. "And you think that's nothing important?"

Charles glances off to the side, still not meeting Erik's eyes. «It might be the most important thing there is,» he thinks, «but you already knew it.»

That's true enough, and Erik bends down and cups Charles's cheek in his hand, turning him to face Erik so Erik can kiss him in confirmation. "I love you, too," he murmurs. "I'll get you that tea."

It's one of those nights Charles isn't sleeping well; sometimes Erik wishes he had Charles's power so he could soothe Charles to sleep. He has to settle for doing it the old-fashioned way, the human way, which grates on him a little, but holding Charles is not a hardship. He stretches out on his back and carefully eases his arm around Charles's shoulders, tugging him onto Erik's chest. Charles curls up immediately, one leg thrown over Erik's, hand curved over Erik's shoulder.

Even Erik gets some sleep like that, and when morning comes, he can't bear to wake Charles, not immediately. Usually Charles is up long before Erik, already into the bathroom before Erik drags himself out of bed, door closed, water running. Having Charles asleep on him this way is a luxury above and beyond all the little pleasures he's found in this life he shares with Charles; it isn't often Erik's gotten a chance to laze in bed with his lover.

He runs his fingertips over Charles's arm, back and forth, from his wrist over all the freckles on his forearm to his shoulder, but as he's touching Charles, he spots a smudge on Charles's upper arm. Erik rubs absently at it, and Charles flinches in his sleep. The mark doesn't go away.

Erik frowns and looks a little more closely at it. It's not a smudge; it's a bruise. And it's not the only one; Charles's upper arms have a matched set of them, all in the shape of someone's fingers.

Who, Erik thinks, when, rage flashing through him, but even as he's thinking it, his own hand curves over the marks. He doesn't grip tightly, but if he were--if he did--

It's a perfect match, his hand on Charles's bruises.

He slides out from under Charles and heads for the bathroom, closing the door once he's inside. He looks at himself in the mirror; nothing seems out of the ordinary, nothing seems wrong. He's the same man he's always been, has the same eyes, the same face.

He looks down at his hands. He's not the only man in the world to have hands like his, hands this size. Maybe there was someone who cornered Charles at some point--but when? When has Erik let Charles out of his sight? Why wouldn't Charles have called for help?

Something brushes at him, a fragment of a dream. His hand over Charles's mouth, Charles's thoughts surging into his mind--«help, help me, someone help, please stop, Erik, oh God, please stop--»

He shudders all over, trying to push the image out of his mind. It's nearly impossible. Worse, he's desperately hard now, wanting to bury himself in someone, fuck until he's aching and blind and winded from the exertion.

The door opens, and Erik jerks upright, turning as Charles walks into the bathroom. The bathroom, what's Erik doing in the bathroom, why is he here instead of back in bed? It must be for the obvious reason, Erik supposes, and he's more tired than he realized if he doesn't remember coming to the bathroom in the first place.

"I thought we had a rule about this," Erik says.

Charles slides a hand down from his chest to his stomach, and then lower, curling his fingers into the thatch of hair at the base of Erik's cock. "We do," Charles says, "but I could feel you getting all worked up, and I thought it would be a pity to have you all worked up alone."

Worked up--yes--oh, yes, Erik's hard, the shock of that radiating through his entire body. Not just hard, but yearning for it, as worked up as Charles said. It's not just a typical erection from sleep or dreams, so how he could have failed to notice... maybe he came in here to relieve that pressure, but it seems odd he would have forgotten that.

Oh, well; it's a moot point now. Charles tugs lightly at his short curls, and Erik groans and reaches out for him, hand curving around Charles's shoulder and then sweeping down his arm: pale, unmarked except for all those ridiculous freckles.

"What do you think?" Charles murmurs. "Hand? Mouth?"

"Mouth," Erik answers immediately, and Charles slips to his knees, sliding his tongue carefully over his lips to wet them.

Erik's mind is a blank as he buries his cock in Charles's mouth, all his focus on his body and what it's doing, and God, it takes forever. Charles goes on and on with it, mouth hungry, lips tight, but he doesn't let Erik come. He backs off again and again, until Erik's shuddering with pleasure and upright only because collapsing might mean Charles would stop.

Stop reverberates through his head, stop, wait, stop, someone else's voice. Not his own. His own says Take it--some voice in the back of his head says, you want it so fucking badly, you take it, take this for me, you little whore--but the thoughts are there and gone, there and... gone, he was thinking something but now he can't remember what. As it slips away from him, Charles drops one hand to his own cock, jerking off roughly, moaning with Erik's cock in his mouth, and it's beautiful, so incredibly beautiful.

"Charles--yes," Erik pants, "there, I'm there, oh God please--"

He comes, hard enough to leave him dizzy, and he braces himself on Charles's shoulders. There's a shadow on Charles's upper arm. Maybe it's only the angle Erik's standing at, but it looks like a handprint of some kind--no, it's gone, a shadow after all. Charles's hand is a blur on his cock now, and as soon as he draws back from Erik's cock, he lets out a sharp, ragged moan, and then there's the slick heat of his come streaking across Erik's ankle, across his feet.

Erik stares down at it, at Charles, and it's wrong--boots, he should be in boots, should be almost dressed for this, and Charles should be down on the floor, face pressed to leather and licking but--

The image vanishes--what image? what was he thinking?--and Charles grabs clumsily at a hand towel, cleaning his fingers and swabbing off Erik's ankle and his feet. He stands up and gives Erik a sheepish look.

"Made kind of a mess there," he says. "Sorry."

"Sorry? After that?" Erik manages. "Good God, Charles, you've nothing to be sorry for."

Charles quirks his mouth in a way that doesn't quite reach his eyes, and he licks his lips, taking the last traces of Erik's come off them. "You go on and shower, I've interrupted you. I'll have mine later on."

"It's all right to barge in for blowjobs, but nothing else, is that the new rule?" Erik smirks. "I'll bear it in mind."

"Hurry up," Charles says, turning and letting himself out. "We've got a lot to do today."

He's never pretended he didn't want Charles, not even that first night. Shaking from how close he'd been to killing Shaw, head pounding from straining his power to the limit, his body still clammy from his wet suit as Charles unzipped it and peeled it off him, Erik never even hesitated in opening up to Charles. Body first, because spreading his legs was easy, and mind second, because he couldn't have held Charles off even if he'd wanted to.

Charles wove himself into Erik's mind as he drove into Erik's body. His thoughts were as sure of themselves as his cock; he knew exactly how Erik wanted to be touched, how a hot, insistent kiss could make Erik grasp at him and drag him further and further in. He sent whispers of thoughts across Erik's mind, «incredible, I can feel the power inside you, you could tear the world down if it got in your way,» and Erik reveled in it, finally feeling that harsh, glowing satisfaction of being with someone who was neither afraid of him nor wanted to turn him into yet another scientific experiment.

«Never,» Charles promised him, hands threading into Erik's and pinning them to the bunk. Not enough room, not really, but Charles had talked an officer into loaning them a stateroom--maybe on the grounds that it was best to give a man who could destroy a ship with its own anchor whatever he wanted until they were on dry land. «You're not an experiment to me, you're a man, I'll give you everything, share everything with you--Erik, Erik--»

He'd had others, taken pleasure from other men and women over the course of the last dozen years, but he'd never felt like this--and when Charles pushed into him and thought «Come for me» at him, Erik bit down hard on Charles's shoulder and watched his world white out around the edges. He came back down from it panting, eyes brimming, looking up at Charles... who, thank God, looked every bit as thunderstruck as Erik felt. Charles collapsed onto Erik's chest, and Erik held him, feeling sore and bruised and still heartsick from letting Shaw slip away, but--for once--not alone.

Even Erik doesn't know if he could have walked away from that. Charles left him the choice, but Erik was back in Charles's bed in minutes, stripping out of his clothes and kissing him until they were both breathless, frantic as Charles drove thoughts into him: «Thank God, thank God you didn't leave me, I need you, you're everything I ever wanted, I can see it in your mind...»

«I told you to stay out,» Erik thought, forcing the words into Charles as best he could. «You don't know me, you've barely even met me...»

Charles pressed a kiss to Erik's temple, hot and openmouthed. «I know everything,» he sent back, his fingers slippery inside Erik, his breath coming warm and fast against Erik's face. «Everything you are, everything you want to be. Stay and I'll show you, I'll teach you, I'll give you anything you want, everything, all the things you never thought you could have, the things you thought no one could ever have...»

His thoughts surged into Erik's mind then, burning him, a thousand things he'd never done but had always wanted to do, fantasies that scared him even as they sent him shoving down against Charles's hand, trying to get Charles's fingers deeper inside him.

--On his knees with Charles behind him, walking back and forth, the jingling ring of his open belt buckle a threat and a promise, and then the whisper of the belt leaving its loops and the soft slap of leather against hardwood as the belt trailed along the floor.

--Erik's hand planted hard in the center of Charles's back, keeping him pinned as he pushed in hard and deep.

--His mouth, full with the thick length of Charles's cock; his ass, tight around Charles's fingers and then stretching to take more; his cock between Charles's thighs, the heat and friction as he pounded into Charles's body, the rasp of his voice as he whispered beg me until Charles did--

«I will,» Charles promised. «I'll say it, I'll say anything, please, Erik, please...»

«--in me,» Erik demanded, impatient, and Charles sank into him, groaning brokenly as he kept going, sliding in firm and fierce and graceful.

«Anything,» Charles promised, «anything. Stay and I'll show you, I promise...»

Erik believed him, even back then. But then sometimes he wonders what Charles saw in his mind. What it was that inspired those thoughts so quickly.

He has fantasies he's never made peace with, but Charles has been careful to steer away from those. It might happen for them someday--he might be willing to talk, might even be willing to believe Charles's promises that he could give Erik anything he wanted, but Charles isn't pressing him on it.

There's no need to rush things. As far as Erik's concerned, his decision was made when he walked back into the compound. Shaw has a deadline, but Erik and Charles don't. As far as Erik's concerned, they have all the time in the world.

Charles is on Erik's lap tonight, facing away from him. Erik's seated on the edge of the bed, one hand clamped hard over Charles's mouth, the other squeezing Charles's wrist. Charles is using his free hand to tug and pull at the hand on his mouth, but Erik just tightens his grip, pushing his fingers hard enough into Charles's cheeks that they might just leave bruises. He wants those bruises, wants to wake up in the middle of the night and lick them, force his way into Charles's body again and again and again.

"I love this," Erik breathes out, against Charles's shoulder. His whole body is glowing from the pleasure of having Charles this way, the strain on his muscles as he holds Charles in place. He rocks up hard, his cock shoving deep inside Charles. His palm stifles each of Charles's moans and cries as he forces them out of Charles's throat. "I love you like this, I love you--"

Something goes hard and jagged inside him, and for a moment his eyes widen of their own accord. His heart pounds. He can feel the sweat drenching his body, the nearly-painful clench of Charles's ass around his cock, and he's hurting Charles--God help him, he's hurting Charles, he can't, he can't be doing this, no--

Charles stops struggling, hand coming off Erik's wrist, fingers pressed tightly against his temple, and the world snaps back, the remorse falling away in an instant. Erik takes his hand off Charles's mouth and knocks Charles's hand away from his temple.

"You're not taking me over," Erik snarls. "You're not changing this, you couldn't stop me even if you wanted to. Even you couldn't stop me."

Charles pants, gasps for air, and Erik fits his hand around Charles's throat. "Try to stop this," Erik whispers, fingers flexing gently against the delicate skin. "Try. All your power, and you can't stop me."

"Please," Charles whispers, "Erik, I won't, I won't try to get away, you're hurting me, please stop--"

"I want to hurt you," Erik says, and he bends his mouth down to Charles's shoulder, bites sharply at the curve of his muscle. He doesn't break skin, but Charles arches and squirms and struggles--so much for his promise of not trying to get away. Erik draws his mouth away and licks over the bite. Not enough to bruise, not yet. "I want to hurt you and break you and see you shattered on the floor." He bites down again, the same spot, sucking and licking until he can almost feel the iron in Charles's blood begging to come through the skin for him. He doesn't; he won't finish this with Charles's blood in his mouth, but God, he's tempted. Charles rests against him, limp and--yes, maybe broken, and when Erik shoves Charles off his lap and onto his hands and knees, Charles bends his head down, face screwed up in tears.

"Take this," Erik snarls, surging forward, pushing back inside him, and Charles cries out, yelling loud enough to wake half the motel. When Erik reaches forward and tugs Charles's head back by the hair, though, Charles's jaw is clenched and his lips are tightly pressed together, the cries never stopping--Erik can still hear Charles screaming in his head.

It could all be in his head. Charles could be constructing all of this, watching from the other bed as Erik takes out his aggression and fury on a mental image, and that thought just enrages Erik even more. «It's not a lie, you're taking this for me, you're going to hurt for me, bleed for me if I want it, aren't you, aren't you? It's not a fucking lie--»

The room blurs, and Erik freezes in place, his hands stiff on Charles's hips, his body locked down tightly. Charles scrambles away from him, but Erik's still frozen. It's horrifying, being trapped like this. He can't move; he can only take shallow breaths, his eyes focused on the floor in front of him where Charles used to be. He can't even move the littlest finger on his hand, on either hand.

He can hear, though. Charles is choking back sobs: not the beautiful seductive sobs he gives Erik when Erik's hurting him, but something else. He walks into the bathroom and shuts the door behind him, and still Erik's trapped there, held there.


«Shut up,» comes the mental voice, «don't talk to me right now.»

Erik takes his shallow breaths and stays where he is, on his knees, cock still hard, sweat drying on his skin. His hands are the most grotesque element of this pose, still held out as if to draw Charles back to him. He can't draw anything to him, not that he knows what good having a handful of metal--coins, maybe--would do him. He tries for the bathroom door, tries to push it open, but there's a wall between his will and his power, and that, too, makes him feel cold all over.

A few minutes later, Charles walks out of the bathroom. Erik's head tilts up--not under his own power--but it's enough to let him look at Charles. Charles's face is freshly washed; the redness in his eyes is nearly gone. He's got the beginnings of what is going to be a spectacular bruise on his shoulder, and he's holding a washcloth.

"Hold still," he says, not that Erik can do otherwise, and he cleans Erik up. The gentle swift strokes of the washcloth are neither arousing nor deflating, but at this point Erik's not entirely sure his erection's got anything to do with him--and the fact that Charles wants it to be there, even now, seems vaguely worrying.

"Get on the bed," Charles says, and before he can act to do it himself, he's there.

Charles disappears into the bathroom with the washcloth, and when he comes back, he's got lube in hand. He climbs into bed with Erik--on Erik, straddling his legs--and squeezes a generous amount of lube into his palm. His other hand draws up, fingertips pressed against his temple, and he takes a long, slow, deep breath--

--Erik reaches up to Charles's hips, eyes wide. "You don't have to," he gasps, but Charles's hand is already on his cock, working the lube all the way up his length. "Oh, God, Charles, you don't have to, we don't have to do it this way--"

"I want to," Charles answers softly, finished with Erik's cock now and moving his hand between his legs, stroking the leftover lube into--God, inside him, and Erik tilts his head up to watch that. Charles winces a little, probably tight enough even his fingers are uncomfortable, and it reminds Erik of the only other time they've done this, the one other time he's been inside Charles. The pain on his face, the way his lip was swollen the next day...

He doesn't like to think about it, mostly because he kept looking at Charles's mouth and thinking about how beautiful he was. I love you, he thought, I don't want to hurt you, and he was sick with arousal and shame until Charles's lip healed and everything was back to normal.

Now, Charles steadies himself against the stretch and burn, and he pushes his fingers into his ass until they're in all the way to the last knuckle. Another small flicker of discomfort slides over his face, but it fades off quickly, even as Erik tries to memorize it. Erik could probably get off just from this memory, let alone seeing it in person.

"Tell me what to do," Erik says, reaching out for Charles's hips. His hands are stiff, almost sore, like he's had them in one position for too long. "I want to make it good for you, tell me how to make it good for you..."

"You will," Charles murmurs, his fingers slipping free of his body now and wrapping around the base of Erik's cock. "You always do."

«I know, but this is... different,» Erik thinks, gasping as Charles begins to sink down on him. It's incredible, all that soft slick tightness, and Charles bites down on his lip again and moans, the sound strangling out in his throat. Erik reaches up, runs his fingers up Charles's arm to his shoulder, from his shoulder to his neck, and he strokes the front of Charles's neck gently, then moves his fingertips to Charles's lips. «Can I hear you, please...?»

Charles opens his mouth and breathes out heavily, nodding. He reaches down and braces himself, his hands on Erik's chest, and he drives himself down, grunting sharply, his fingers clenching and his nails digging into the planes of Erik's pectoral muscles. Erik tightens his grip on Charles's hips, moaning at the way that feels--it's like his hands belong there, like he's felt this a thousand times before.

He watches Charles moving on him, his hips and thighs flexing and tightening as he drives himself up and back down, and Erik's sure he's going to go over at any moment, it's too arousing not to go over--but he wants it to last forever, too, wants the clench of Charles's body around him, wants the desperate, determined, pained look on Charles's face to go on and on...

«Can I,» he thinks, too aroused to hold back the fantasy, and he's projecting it to Charles now: flipping Charles over, pushing Charles's knees to his chest, pounding in--«not too hard, not if you don't want it, but please, please, if you can, if you can take it for me...»

Charles squeezes his eyes shut for a moment, and at first Erik thinks he's saying no--or coming up with a tactful way not to say yes. Instead, Charles nods, and while Erik won't be proud of his eagerness later, he takes that permission without needing to be told twice. He surges upright and gets an arm behind Charles's back, turning them over and pressing Charles's legs up. Charles bites down on his lower lip and nods again--thank God, thank God--and Erik pushes into him once more, filling him, oh God, driving in harder and harder as he struggles to hold himself back.

«Don't,» Charles thinks, reaching up to put a hand on Erik's shoulder. «Don't hold back, I want it, I want you, like this, all of you--that strength, that need, please, Erik, please...»

An image floods his mind--Charles's hands caught in Erik's grip, pinned to the bed as Erik uses him, hot and filthy and perfect. Erik scrambles for Charles's wrists and pins them, awkward, thank God for his long reach, but when he has Charles pinned down, Charles tilts his head back and all but screams, his pleasure pulsing thick and hot between them.

Erik stops, awestruck--coming without even being touched, how, and more importantly, can he do it again--but he has to hold still, now, has to keep from moving while Charles recovers.

There's a shadow on Charles's shoulder, crescent-shaped, almost like a bruise or a bite. Erik blinks down at it--is it a shadow, somehow, light playing off the covers? And then Charles shifts, shoulders moving back and forth on the bed, and the shadow's gone.

«Erik, you don't have to wait,» Charles thinks, eyes still shut in bliss. «Keep going, please... let me feel you like that, now, please, please...»

«I don't want to hurt you,» Erik thinks back. «I can wait, you can touch me, stroke me off with your hand--»

"The hell with my hand," Charles says, impatient and hoarse. "Erik. Christ. Fuck me."

Erik's hands tighten almost involuntarily on Charles's wrists, and he licks his lips, wanting to believe Charles means it, that he can take it, that he wants it. And Charles is asking for it, so... maybe... maybe...

He draws out, slowly, and sinks in again, and Charles moans for him, mouth falling open for the sound. Another deep thrust, and Charles twists his head to the side, and yes, yes, he can take this, he can have this, Charles wants it this way, and Erik picks up his pace, goes in harder, takes everything Charles is offering and barely contains himself from taking more. «I love, I want, oh God, Charles, you give me so much, you're amazing, I love you...»

«--harder,» Charles thinks at him, his mind a whirl and a blaze, his thoughts colliding with Erik's and urging him to do more, take more. «--harder faster more please I want it I want you don't hold back I want everything Erik I always wanted everything with you--»

He lets one of Charles's hands go and shoves at Charles's thigh, trying to get Charles's leg around his waist instead of between them; Charles moves the way Erik's showing him, eager, hooking his calf around Erik's ass and drawing him in tightly. Erik bends his head down to Charles's shoulder, that spot where he saw the shadow, before, and he rakes his teeth lightly over the spot, moaning as he feels the rush of Charles's heartbeat. Iron flows under his skin, not enough for Erik to take hold of, but enough for him to be aware of, enough for him to feel the warmth and flow of Charles's life underneath him.

«I love you,» Erik thinks, but the words are swallowed by the desperate rush of thoughts from Charles.

«--yes there please please bite me--»

Erik does, spurred to it by his own lust for the metals in Charles's body and the way Charles is taking him, eager and encouraging even though he's pinned flat, obviously wanting everything. Erik bites, licks, bites again--it's not hard enough to hurt, really, but Charles hisses, rocking his hips up desperately. Erik draws back for a moment, reaching between them, and good God, Charles is hard again.

Charles huffs out a laugh, and then he moans, teeth sinking into his lower lip. «I love you,» he thinks. The bite on his lower lip must sting like hell; Charles's eyes are starting to water, shining with unshed tears. «I want you this way, please, Erik, just fucking take me--»

No more holding back. Erik thrusts into Charles's body like he's been waiting for this moment all night, and maybe he has been; maybe this sense of permission and openness between them is exactly what he's been needing. He squeezes Charles's wrists and goes harder, lets himself fuck Charles as hard as he wants to, as hard as he can, and as Charles gasps and cries out under him, for one solid shining moment it's everything he's never let himself fantasize about--

«Give me that,» Charles lances into Erik's mind, «don't you hide that from me, I want it, give it to me, give it--»

Erik drives into him for one last deep thrust, and then he's coming, gasping as his hands tighten on Charles's wrists, feeling the small bones there. They're so fragile; Erik could squeeze harder and bruise Charles's wrists, lay down enough tension to hurt him. Charles is laid out bare and vulnerable, and Erik could hurt him, break Charles if he were trying hard enough, the thought terrifying and glorious all at once.

«Don't be afraid,» Charles thinks, «I'm not afraid, I was never afraid of you...»

«Oh, God--yes, Charles,» yes, Erik's there, riding the sensations out and being rocked by them. He can feel Charles tightening around him; in his mind, he can feel Charles sharing sensation with him, using Erik's orgasm to drive himself over, too.

When the pleasure ebbs enough for Erik to move again, he lets go of Charles's wrists and collapses beside him, an arm over Charles's chest, his face tucked against Charles's shoulder.

«Thank you,» Erik sends, eyes closed, squeezing Charles tightly. «That was... thank you, thank you...»

Charles puts his hand on Erik's arm and squeezes in return. «Erik...»

Erik isn't so far out of it that he can't hear the regret in Charles's thoughts. He lifts up immediately, squinting down into Charles's face. «What is it? Did I do something wrong?» He cups Charles's cheek in his hand, brushing his thumb over Charles's mouth. «I'm sorry if I hurt you, I never meant to--I would never, never--»

Charles's smile turns wan and a little false, and Erik feels his heart sink. Too much. Too far. No wonder they never do it this way; how fucking selfish was he to let Charles offer?

And at the same time, there's a little resentment under the sorrow. You said you weren't afraid of me, he thinks, closing his eyes and trying to lock that thought inside his own head. What is this, then?

He puts his head on Charles's shoulder again. «I'm sorry,» he thinks, trying to make that the only emotion he feels. «I'll make up for it... it'll be better next time...»

For several long seconds, there's nothing. And then, silently, Charles squeezes him. «Don't be sorry,» he thinks. The thoughts are dull and subdued, no emotion to them that Erik can detect. It's just another thing he doesn't understand tonight. «You don't have to apologize. It was good. It was wonderful. Go to sleep.»

He doesn't, though. He doesn't sleep then, and not when Charles thinks it at him again a few minutes later. He knows Charles is awake, too, and he has a feeling Charles is staring at the ceiling, unblinking, as uncertain what to do about all this as Erik is.

In the morning, Charles kisses Erik's forehead and then slips out of bed. He gathers up his clothes, quietly heads for the bathroom, and closes the door behind him. Erik lingers, curling up on his side and replaying the previous night in his head.

You don't have to... oh, God, Charles, you don't have to, we don't have to do it this way...

There's something wrong about that; by the time they got there, it felt like Erik had been hard for hours, like he'd been at the edge several times that night already. But before that moment, Charles slicking lube down his cock, there was... there'd been...

I love this... I love you like this, I love you...

He shakes his head, trying to bring that memory to the surface. There's something wrong with it, despite the words themselves--something wrong about saying it, or what he was doing while he said it.

But when Charles comes out of the bathroom, he's smiling brightly, dressed in one of his usual button-down shirts and grey trousers, hair damp from his shower. "We've got a long drive ahead of us today. Think you can handle six hours on the road?"

"I suppose so," Erik says, stretching. He yawns and scratches at the back of his neck, looking Charles over carefully. For all the awkwardness and confusion of the previous night, things seem fine today.

He climbs out of bed and comes over to Charles, sliding his hands onto Charles's shoulders. There's a shadow just barely visible on Charles's neck, and Erik grins as he notices it, bending his head down and tugging Charles's collar aside so he can lick over the bruise.

Charles jerks beneath him, gasping, both hands moving into Erik's hair. "You--" He tugs gently at Erik's hair, but it isn't enough to budge him. "I should have buttoned up," Charles murmurs, but his voice sounds like warm honey, and he's carding his fingers through Erik's hair. "Did you leave a mark?"

Erik draws back to look. It isn't just a mark, it's a dark purple bruise, the sort of thing that only occurs when one's been bitten hard, or repeatedly, over the course of several minutes. He covers his surprise quickly, lowering his head again and kissing the bruise, humming with pleasure. Charles surges forward against him, and Erik can feel Charles's erection now, warm even under layers of wool and silk.

"It's beautiful," Erik whispers, and Charles clutches at him, shivering with want. Erik pulls away, finally, needing to see the look on Charles's face, and the stunned pleasure radiating off Charles nearly starts Erik tearing at Charles's clothes, almost makes him pull Charles over to the bed.

He manages to resist, but it's a near thing. "I'd better hurry, if we have that much of a drive today," Erik says. "Where is it we're going?"

"West Virginia," Charles says, in an aroused tone that Erik doubts has ever been used to describe that state before. "You don't need to rush too much..."

"I'd like to clean up, though," Erik says. He kisses Charles one more time, and tempted as he is to linger, he finally lets Charles go, heading for the bathroom.

Once he's there, he closes his eyes and puts a hand over his mouth. That bruise. Erik remembers biting Charles last night, clearly remembers sucking on Charles's neck and licking over the bite. But there's no way he bit Charles hard enough to leave that sort of mark. Not a chance.

And even if he had, the mark's in the wrong place. It's not very far off--half an inch, if that--but Erik knows where he bit Charles, and that isn't it.

Something's been wrong for a while, and Erik's wondered about it, but that mark is proof. He closes his eyes and tries to clear his thoughts, and he goes through the motions of getting ready for the day.

In West Virginia, Erik and Charles find the diner where they're supposed to meet yet another mutant. They pile into a booth together, waiting. Erik doesn't mind the wait so much, although Charles's spirits are a bit more depressed. One could chalk that up to the fact that Erik's drinking the surprisingly strong coffee, while Charles, having insisted on tea, received lukewarm water in which to dunk a bag full of mediocre black pekoe.

One could. But Erik thinks not. He's trying to keep his thoughts full of inane subject material, a running list of the people in the diner and a mental dossier on each of them, all the collected facts he's observed about them as they come and eat their meals and leave. His usual hyperawareness of his surroundings makes that seem almost reasonable. The key is not thinking of last night, not thinking of Charles's misplaced bruise. Not thinking about the fact that, in a relationship with a telepath, the difference between truth and lie is only the barest hint of a thought.

He's pulled out of his thoughts when an older man joins them in the booth, slipping silently onto the bench opposite them. Even Charles sits up a little straighter, slight frown passing over his features as he takes in the new arrival.

It is almost impossible to sneak up on Charles--Erik knows this from personal experience--so the fact that this man was able to do exactly that makes Erik take a little more notice of him. He recalls the mutant's ability being something about sound dampening, but no one's quiet enough to fool a telepath. Or are they?

"Harvey Melmoth?" Charles asks.

Harvey nods. "Hello," he whispers. "I suppose you're the young man who contacted me...?"

Charles appears to be recovering quickly, and why not; they've done this part a dozen times over by now. "I'm Charles Xavier."

"Erik Lehnsherr," Erik offers.

"We've been looking for people of," Charles raises an eyebrow, "rare and unusual talents, for a project we're working on with a benefactor who would, at present, prefer to remain unnamed."

"And your benefactor wants librarians?" Harvey raises his eyebrows.

"That depends on the librarian," Charles says with a smile.

It's just then that the waitress walks up, asking if she can bring Harvey anything; Charles's fingers are already at his temple, and he says, "A cup of coffee and a slice of your apple pie for my friend here, but please don't heat it, he'd rather have it a little cold. I think I might have a slice of blueberry, myself, and Erik--" Charles turns to Erik and lifts his eyebrows. "Really? That's a shame, apparently the blueberry pie is outstanding..."

"I'll pass, thank you."

"All right." He looks back up at the waitress, smiling. "Nothing for Erik. Thank you. And by the way, that's a lovely shade of lipstick you're wearing."

The waitress beams down at him. "Do you like it? I just bought it."

Erik hadn't even noticed, but it's a light pink, and apparently she's proud of it. She walks away smiling.

After she's gone, Harvey blinks at Charles. "That was all quite impressive," he says evenly. "You two arranged your order in advance, of course, and you probably overheard Emily talking about her lipstick... I suppose you've been having me watched for the past few weeks? Or did you just ask someone what I usually order?"

"Nothing that complicated, I assure you," Charles says. "I'm sure you've been making excellent use of your talents at work, I can't think of a place where one would value quiet more than a library--"

"I can think of quite a number of places," Erik says, "but we're not going to argue with you if you decide not to join us."

Harvey's gaze shifts from Charles to Erik and back again. "Join you?" His eyes skitter around the diner, then come to rest on the table. "I have a good life," he says quietly. "A good job. I'm not unhappy here--"

The coffee and pie arrives--very quick work, Erik thinks, nodding at the waitress--and Charles looks at Harvey's coffee. "Very sweet," he says. "If you wouldn't mind getting that, Erik--"

Erik gestures casually at the sugar dispenser and upends it, pouring a thin stream of sugar into Harvey's coffee. When Charles nods that it's enough, Erik lifts Harvey's teaspoon and stirs the sugar in, tapping the spoon lightly on the rim of the cup and then lifting it three feet above the table's surface. He drops it, and it should clatter against the table, but instead there's not the least hint of a sound. It's amazing what one can get away with if no one else can hear what's going on; Erik smiles at Harvey, and Harvey reaches out and gathers up his spoon, holding it tightly in his hand.

He's like that for several seconds, finally looking up at Charles and Erik. "I really don't know what good I'll do," he says softly.

"Don't think about it in terms of doing good," Erik urges him. "Think of it as finally being with your own kind."

Charles eyes him, but doesn't argue. By the time they've had their coffee, tea, and pie, and the bill's been settled, they've got another member of the family, and Erik goes to a phone booth and lets the motel know they'll be needing another room.

Back in the motel room, Charles steps to the far end--as far away from the wall they share with Harvey's room as he can--and presses the first two fingers of both hands to his temples.

"Is something the matter?"

«...tell... me, can... hear this?» Charles makes a face. "It's like trying to read everything through gauze. I knew about his sound-dampening abilities, but I didn't realize they extended to thought."

Erik lifts an eyebrow. "I take it you can't simply tell him to turn it off. He can control the sound bit well enough..."

"To some extent, but you'll notice he didn't speak above a whisper, and it was unusually quiet wherever he went. I imagine it's no different with dampening telepathy. He might not be blocking me completely, but I can certainly tell the difference." Charles opens his mouth, rubs his cheeks, his jaw. "This is so strange."

"How far does it extend? To the end of the room, obviously--"

Charles nods, and then his face clears and he tilts his head back against the wall, groaning. "Oh, that's better, he's gone down the hall for some ice. Yes, all right, so it's--maybe five meters. And it's not a full block, I could still read him, and you, but even so." He grimaces. "I really dislike mutations that can interfere with mine..."

"I have no doubt," Erik says, heading back to the other side of the room, by the bed. He takes a seat and unfastens his wristwatch, leaving it on the nightstand, and then leans down to unzip his boots and slip those off as well. "When we're back at the compound we won't put him too near you, how would that be?"

"Better," Charles admits. His face screws up. "Back in range again." He sighs and comes over anyway, taking a seat at the very foot of the bed. "How am I going to be able to sleep this way? It's so quiet."

Erik comes around to the foot of the bed and slips his hand onto the back of Charles's neck. "I think I can offer you some distraction," he murmurs.

Charles turns to him, reaching out, and he gets both hands into Erik's shirt, making fists in the material. Erik's eyes widen as Charles pushes him down onto the bed, swinging a leg over and straddling him, but then Charles is kissing him, raw and fierce, all but chewing on Erik's mouth, and Erik moans and puts his hands on Charles's back, sliding them gently up and down. «This, yes,» Erik thinks, «do you want it, do you--tell me what you want--»

Both of Charles's hands come up and slip into Erik's hair, thumbs pressed heavily against Erik's temples, fingers tight against the sides of Erik's head. His mental voice is sharp, every word a staccato beat against the rhythm of their breath.

«I want you,» Charles sends, biting at Erik's lower lip. Erik squirms beneath him, gets his hands onto Charles's ass and rocks up urgently. «The way I always want you, always--»

Erik sucks in a breath against Charles's mouth. There's no blending this time, no sense that Erik's thoughts are ending where Charles's begin. Usually Charles's presence in his mind is so natural, it's like Charles is a missing piece of him. Right now, it's never been so obvious that they're separate men.

Harvey, Erik thinks, and squirms further up the bed, dragging Charles along with him. Charles grimaces at first, but then he's back on top of Erik, kissing him, his thoughts bearing down on Erik's and sending him flickers of arousal, the warmth and connection they've been sharing since the night they met.

«Yes,» Erik thinks back at him. «Charles--I want--» That bruise on Charles's neck, the one Erik left and didn't leave... Erik reaches up and digs his thumb into it, pressing hard. «I want, let me, let me--»

Charles pushes himself up, one hand at his temple, and Erik falls slack onto the bed. It's not all Charles--not all of it, Erik can feel his mind and body wanting to roll under Charles's thoughts, but there's a part of him still here, still present beneath that urge.

He buries that part of him, following the urge where Charles wants it to go. Charles kisses Erik's cheek, nuzzles him softly, and sends, «I love you.» It's more complicated than the words; there's... sadness to it, and a hint of steeled resolve. Erik has to force himself to stay still instead of trembling.

Charles backs away from him--or away from the wall, and that might be a problem. Erik hopes Harvey doesn't leave, doesn't go down the hall for ice again or decide now's the time to take a bath. Sleep, just sleep, just stay where you are and--

He's up and moving, the impulse as natural as choosing to walk on his own. But he's stalking across the room to Charles, hands outstretched, catching Charles's arms and backing him up against the wall. Gentle, easy, not too loud; he doesn't slam Charles into the wall (not this time, and there's an echo of memory along with the soft hum of Charles's running thoughts: no more bruises, can't afford them, he'll see, he'll know... gently now, you have him, you have this. Erik...).

He stares down at Charles's face; Charles looks pale and scared, and Erik's seen him this way before. The fear is a lie--with Erik's own eyes, he can see that very clearly--but inside Erik there's a growing seed of rage and fury that sees what it wants to, what Charles wants him to see. Fear. As he's watching, he feels a need swell up inside him, one that's eager to take in more of that that fear.

Arousal twists at him, at the surface where Charles is in command and just beneath, where it's all Erik, all his own feelings and responses. A lover looking up at him, frightened and begging--he--he can't want this (always wanted this), he won't (he needs), it's Charles, damn it, Charles, the man he's loved almost from the first--

Charles's eyebrows draw slightly together, and all the confusion goes tumbling aside, deeper within Erik and away from what they're doing here. Charles's thoughts spill over Erik's own, flooding him. They seep into parts of his mind he tries to leave unexplored, all those fantasies he's been repressing for as long as he's had them, and then those parts are floating to the surface, chaining together and settling firmly into place.

It's all familiar. Too familiar. He's done all of this before, again and again, until even his senses feel different with this layer of violence and control covering everything else. He licks his lips, but that's not enough; he licks the sharp points of his teeth and hums out soft approval at the slight sting of it. Pinned between the wall and Erik's body, Charles is starting to breathe faster, and Erik pushes a thigh between Charles's legs, heavy and insistent. He can see Charles's eyelashes fluttering, just the barest fraction of an inch; he can see the rapid beat of his pulse at the side of his neck, just below his jaw. He leans close to Charles's pulse point and licks roughly over that spot, feeling the iron in his blood rushing along beneath his mouth, and he growls, low, humming a vibration out against Charles's skin.

"Erik," Charles whispers. "Erik, not like this, please not like this, please just let me go--"

The words echo through his mind a fraction of an instant before he says them aloud. "You're not going anywhere. Not until I'm through with you."

"It doesn't have to be this way." Charles's voice is shaking; beneath the grip Charles has on him, Erik can hear the false note in it, but the lie is enough for the part of him that's on the surface. "You don't have to force me, I'll do whatever you want, you know I will--"

Erik flattens him against the wall, his teeth snapping at Charles's ear. Charles yelps, both hands coming up to dig into Erik's shoulders, push at him, but he's very careful about it. He could cover a bruise on himself easily enough, but if he left one on Erik...

"I want," Erik pants, "to force you. I want to hurt you. You know, you've always known--"

He can feel Charles's lips moving against the side of his neck, the soft heat of his breath as Charles presses the words into Erik's mouth. "--always known, and always wanted me, wanted me this way," Erik whispers. He jerks back, catching Charles's hair in one hand, bracing him against the wall again. Charles's eyes widen, hand coming up to his temple, but Erik knocks that hand aside, pinning his wrist to the wall before Charles can even attempt to tear this memory away from him. It's a risk, not knowing how far Harvey's protection extends, how far Charles is willing to go in order to keep from being caught and confronted like this, but Harvey's bought Erik some breathing room, and it's good enough. Erik doesn't have to listen, doesn't have to follow orders anymore, and Charles's expression of panic is real this time. "I know what, now," Erik growls at him. "After all this time I finally know what I've been doing to you. Now tell me why."

"You won't believe me even if I tell you," Charles whispers. "I can fix this, I can make this better, just let me. Let me. Please."

"Do you really think I'll be satisfied living a lie now that I'm sure it's a lie?" But even as he asks, Erik feels chilled; he would never know, Charles is good enough that Erik would never know what had been changed. This is his only chance: here, now, this is the only chance he may ever have to confront Charles about what's been going on.

With his telepathy blunted, Charles is an ordinary man. He's spent years honing his mind and leaving his body to be an afterthought; he doesn't have Erik's raw strength or his years of combat training. This once, Erik has every advantage, emphatically has the upper hand, and it's just a matter of deciding what steps he needs to take to protect himself.

He pulls Charles off the wall and pushes him to the other side of the room, back onto the bed, and Charles's eyes go wide--and yes, a little scared, and a part of Erik takes in that look with all too much satisfaction. I am not your toy, your plaything, he thinks, and when Charles's expression doesn't change, Erik realizes Charles can't hear Erik's thoughts. Not with this much anger thrumming through Erik; not this close to Harvey.

"Tell me," Erik whispers. "Tell me why I should ever trust you again. You've been doing this for God knows how long, you've been controlling me to do something I would never have done--what else am I doing without knowing it? Is this a trick they thought up at the CIA, am I meant to be their weapon and never know it?"

"No," Charles says, blinking rapidly; his eyes are leaking tears. It might have dragged some sympathy from Erik once; it does nothing now. "No, I never, I would never--not for them, not for anyone else, it was only this, only this, I swear--"

"You took a hell of a risk, trying it with Harvey right next door. And your mask has been slipping lately." Erik pulls one hand off Charles's wrist to touch the bruise on Charles's neck. "I knew I didn't leave this."

"You did--"

"You did," Erik corrects. "You. It wasn't me, I don't remember any of it, it was your thoughts, your fantasy--"

"Our fantasy," Charles whispers. He reaches up, covers Erik's hand with his own, and it's such a familiar, gentle feeling that Erik's hand shakes. "Ours. This wasn't just for me, it was never just for me--"

"No." Erik moves his hand--it doesn't have to go far--and slips it over Charles's throat. Charles's eyes widen, but Erik isn't pressing down, not yet. Not yet. "Whatever you might think of me, you can't believe I wanted you to control me. To strip away my memories, my thoughts--"

"I said you wouldn't believe me," Charles tells him, and he tilts his head back, closing his eyes, leaving his throat in Erik's hand. It's a trick--it has to be a trick, maybe Harvey's gone down the hall again, maybe Charles knows he can win if Erik takes this any further.

There's only one way to be certain Charles never controls him again, and Erik's hand goes tight on Charles's throat for a moment. Not so long ago, he would have done it without hesitation. Ended it, like this, and convinced himself that whatever it was between them, it couldn't have been love.

He lifts his hand off Charles's throat, and Charles exhales softly, opening his eyes, looking up at Erik again.

"Tell me what to say," Charles whispers. "What do you need me to say? Tell me."

"Our fantasy, you said." Charles nods. "Then why the memory loss? Why--" Even now, he can hardly bear to face it. "Why, Charles? Why that?"

"Shame," Charles says, easing his hand out from under Erik's grip. Erik lets him go, and when Charles slides his arm around Erik's waist, Erik doesn't stop him. "Guilt."

"But not enough to keep you from doing it."

"Your shame. Your guilt." Charles gets both arms around Erik now, holds onto him as he draws himself up against Erik's body, his face fitting so perfectly into the curve of Erik's shoulder--Erik presses Charles back down, drags his arms out from behind Erik's back and pins them down again. Gentle, but firm about it; even without Charles's shortcut to persuasion, Erik knows his weakness for Charles might very well extend to giving him another chance if he allows Charles to touch him now. "You wanted it, I could see it, it was so clear, and it's nothing, that fantasy's no more than thousands of people dream about every day--"

"Thousands of people aren't--" in love with, Erik thinks, but he's not giving that to Charles, not now, "--fucking telepaths. If I'd wanted this I would have asked you for it. And I would certainly never have asked you to take the memories, after."

Charles looks away. "No," he murmurs. "No, you didn't. And I owe you so many apologies for that--"

"You owe me more than apologies," Erik says. "You know how much apologies mean to me." Charles winces, and Erik reaches up, catches Charles's face in his hand. He turns Charles's head until Charles has no choice but to keep his eyes closed or look at him, and Charles isn't enough of a coward to keep his eyes closed, though it takes him a moment to settle his gaze on Erik. "You owe me all the memories and time you've taken from me. Everything. I want it back, Charles."

"You'd trust me that far?" Charles frowns. "You're willing to trust me with your mind now? You know what I can do if you let me in. Why would you believe anything I gave you?"

This time it's Erik who looks away, his head dropping. "I don't know if I will," he whispers. "I don't know if I can."

"Then what good is it going to do us?"

That gets Erik snarling at him all over again. "You think there's still going to be an us now that the truth's come out?"

Something in Charles's expression goes brittle. "I'm not counting on anything right now."

Erik eases himself off Charles, kneeling up at the side of the bed. "You can't imagine how tempted I am to just walk away from everything once you've put my mind back in order."

"Oh, I can," Charles murmurs, bitterness soaking through the words as he sits up. "And I suppose telling you I love you won't make much difference. But I always have. Since the water, Erik. Since I pulled you out of the water."

Erik remembers the water--the desperation of reaching out for Shaw, trying to crush the submarine into pieces and instead being dragged along behind it, the voice in his mind telling him You have to let go, the strong arms around his chest. His lungs were burning from exertion, but he was so close, so close--

Maybe it started then, with Charles pulling him away from Shaw by force instead of just appealing to Erik's survival instinct and offering him a brother-in-arms. Maybe Charles has never loved anything but his fantasy of who Erik could be; maybe controlling him and using him for these fantasies felt like a natural extension of that definition of love.

But the only reason to believe in Charles now is the most terrifying one of all.

Erik wants to.

"We're going to need a different room," he says gruffly, coming off the bed. He offers Charles his hand, and Charles takes it, squeezing hard as he stands, too.

Two rooms down the hall, away from Harvey, their bags quickly packed and moved, Charles takes a seat on one of the beds. "How do you want to do this?"

Erik sits down on the other bed, facing Charles. "From the beginning."

There are ways he could make a show of protecting himself--the gun in his suitcase, any number of metal items around the room--but it's all so damned pointless. As angry as he is, he's not going to go that far--and any hesitation on his part will mean Charles can keep him from going that far. Charles can not only stop him, he can make Erik forget why he felt any need to protect himself at all. If Erik wants his memories back, he has no choice but to trust Charles, and trust that whatever Charles gives him is the truth.

"The beginning," Charles says. He lifts a hand to his temple and thinks, «All right...»

They're in a different room, another motel, Erik's ass pleasantly sore from their last round. He's slumped on his stomach, grinning, and Charles is still half on top of him, slightly further up the bed so he can rest his cheek on the back of Erik's shoulder.

"I'd do anything," Charles says. "I've peeked in, I've seen all your fantasies. Which would you like to do first?"

Erik laughs, turning halfway around to get a look at Charles. "Right now I'd settle for a turn on top, once we're ready to go again..."

"Would you." The tip of Charles's tongue comes out between his lips, teasing at the upper before Charles's expression melts into a smirk. One eyebrow lifts. "Maybe I should make you wrestle me for it."

"I'd win," Erik says, but his heart's starting to beat a little faster. "Charles--"

Charles slips off his back and rolls off to the side, sprawling, drawing his hands up above his head. Erik looks down at him--yes, seeing Charles like this is arousing, touches on a number of fantasies. That and Charles's remark about wrestling him for it--

"Please, Erik," Charles says softly, eyes going wide and round, "whatever you say, anything at all, just don't--"

Erik presses his fingertips to Charles's lips before he can finish that sentence. There are fantasies Erik's had since he was a teenager, many of which he knows he'll never actually act out with anyone. "Maybe something else," he says lightly. "I have a few thoughts on handcuffs."

"Stainless steel or fur-lined?" Charles asks cheerfully, mock fear vanishing right off his face.

In the motel room, Erik blinks at Charles. "Even that," he says. "You even had to take that?"

Charles looks away. "I thought it was too much of a risk," he says quietly.

"I suppose that's why we never managed to get handcuffs." Charles winces at that, too. "I thought I'd remembered talking about that, but when nothing ever came of it, I assumed you weren't interested after all... or perhaps I was only imagining it." Erik leans down, rests his head in his hands. "God, the number of things I thought I was only imagining--"

"Don't blame me for all of it," Charles snaps, which gets Erik's eyes right back on him. "Sometimes you'd think things at me, so hard, so bright. I couldn't help but respond."

"Just because I was thinking something doesn't mean--"

Charles rolls his eyes. "Yes, I've heard this part of the lecture before." And Erik stiffens; if he's given that lecture, he doesn't remember it. One more piece of his memory lost. "Sometimes you'd think so clearly you might as well have been talking out loud. But I was supposed to know the difference, every time. If you weren't literally speaking with your mouth, I had to pretend I hadn't heard. That was hard at first, if you wondered. If I'm not actively watching your lips form words, sometimes I can't tell the difference between what you say to me out loud and what you're only thinking. And it's worse with you than it is with anyone else. You aren't exactly closed off to me the way you were when we first met."

"Which turns out to have been quite the mistake on my part, doesn't it?"

Charles flinches. "Erik--"

Shaking his head, Erik pushes on. For now, forget about Charles supposedly not knowing the difference between something Erik wanted and something Erik only ever thought about. Forget that. There are memories to reclaim. "I want the next one. Where did this come up again?"

"Fine. Fine." Charles lifts his hand to his temple again.

His fingers glance up Charles's side, and Charles convulses under him, laughing, squirming. Charles gets a hand on Erik's, laces their fingers together in an effort to stop him. In response, Erik pins both of Charles's hands down, looks down Charles's body, and thinks about that motion, his fingertips tickling Charles's ribs.

"You bastard, you bastard, that's cheating," Charles gasps, twisting and writhing under Erik's body. "Quit while you're ahead, I'm giving you full warning--"

"Do your worst," Erik says, running the mental tickle up from Charles's ribs to his armpit. Charles shrieks out loud and then quickly bites his lip, and suddenly Erik looks at him, directly at him, and--

--Charles, caught and pinned beneath him--

--Charles's lip, bitten hard--

--Charles writhing, struggling, trying to get away--

The whole picture fills Erik's mind until there's nothing else, nothing but that image and all the ways it fits his fantasies. And as if that isn't bad enough, Charles twists his head to the side, gasping, face screwed up in a false image of fear. It's not real, Erik knows it isn't real, but his hands tighten on Charles's wrists anyway, body responding in spite of himself.

"Erik, please," Charles whispers, "please, please--"

Erik comes up on his knees, straddling Charles and brushing his hair back off his forehead. "You weren't joking about the warning," he says.

Startled, Charles looks up at him, but that mock look of fear is gone, and he quickly relaxes back into a smile. "See if you try tickling me again."

Erik looks Charles over as they come out of the memory. Charles's expression is set and stubborn; his hand falls away from his temple.

"Not enough," Erik says. "I want to know when this started, when you pushed me into it the first time. Did you take the memory right away, or did I get to remember it for a while?"

"It wasn't anything that simple," Charles says, but there's his hand again, and he thinks, «Here, have the next few times in a row, then, have the answers as fast as you can bear to hear them--»

"You know, it isn't only you," Charles murmurs, tracing a finger up and down the line of Erik's spine. "I have that fantasy, too."

Erik glances over his shoulder. "You'd like to--" He licks his lips, pressing his hips down into the bed. "You're rough sometimes, but I didn't realize--"

"Not from that side," Charles says gently. "From the other."

Erik blinks a few times. "You barely even roll over." A few times, so far; Erik's fantasized about it much more than they've actually done it.

"Barely. But as I've mentioned... sometimes."

"And when you do, you want--you want to be--"

"People's minds are full of so many thoughts, all the time," Charles says, easing himself off Erik, letting Erik turn over so they can look into each other's eyes. "It's not very exciting to have someone rutting away on top of me, thinking about their grocery list. Getting home to their wives," Charles says, mouth turning down at the corners. "Wondering if I can read their thoughts--that one gets a little bit recursive."

Erik winces. "And the times I've had you--or fantasized about having you--"

"The parts where you're worried you're going to hurt me are very sweet, but a little distracting," Charles admits. "And then after that, once you get going..." He grins and bends his head down, kissing Erik, his tongue stroking deeply into Erik's mouth, and Erik kisses him back, humming with pleasure. "That, I like," Charles murmurs, drawing away. "Once you're so distracted with your own pleasure that it blots out everything else..."

"So you'd rather I were selfish?" Erik asks, lifting his head and teasing his tongue across Charles's lower lip.

"Isn't it the ultimate in selfishness? That fantasy. Taking me all the ways you've ever wanted to have me, focused entirely on me and fucking me, going so far as to hold me down and tell me I won't be going anywhere until you've had your way with me..."

"It is selfish. That's why I've never thought I'd do it."

"I meant selfish for me," Charles says, smiling. "Just imagining those thoughts in your mind while you're making love to me--"

"Quite the choice of phrase."

One of Charles's eyebrows arches. "You don't think it was coincidental, do you? That phrase. It's a fantasy, Erik. Beneath the fantasy, making love is exactly what it would be."

Put like that, the idea's more appealing than it's ever been, and Erik squirms underneath Charles. "I... maybe. Maybe. I'll think about it."

It's a disaster, start-to-finish. All Erik can think about is am I holding him too hard, is this hurting him, are you all right, are you all right? Eventually Charles just shakes his head and says, "Stop," and Erik's almost relieved to hear it.

Almost relieved, because the disappointed look on Charles's face is hard to take. "It's fine," Charles says, twisting away from Erik, reaching down to the floor for his boxers. "I'm fine, you didn't hurt me." He sounds bitter when he says, quietly, "You were careful enough."

"I could try again--"

"Can we not talk about it right now? Please." Charles gets back into his undershirt and his trousers, adds the button-down and the sweater vest and the sport jacket as Erik watches. Erik's still on the bed, still tangled in the sheets. "I think I'd like to go out for some coffee. Maybe some pie. Why don't you get dressed? We could both use some air."

"All right," Erik says. He glances around the room, and after a moment, gets his clothes together as well. He's not as fast to dress as Charles was, but soon enough they're leaving the motel room behind.

"It would help if you could relax," Charles says, sitting up and pulling the blankets over his chest. It's the second night in a row they've tried something like this, after a couple of weeks letting it lie, and this time Charles wasn't even pretending to be afraid or struggling to get away--Erik was just pinning him down. "I know you're not going to hurt me, you know you're not going to hurt me--"

"You're too confident about that," Erik fires back, sitting at the foot of the bed. "You sound so sure, but I'm not the man you think I am--"

"Who do you think you're talking to?" Charles throws the covers back and scoots down the bed. He puts his hands on Erik's shoulders, and from there, he sweeps them up Erik's neck, fingertips smoothing up the sides of Erik's face, pressing against Erik's temples. «I'm not just anyone. I'm a telepath. I've known exactly who you were from the moment we met. How many times do I have to tell you? I know everything. And I love you. And I trust you implicitly.» "But even if I didn't," he continues, aloud, "if it came to that, I could stop you. You couldn't hurt me. Not unless you can reach me faster than the speed of thought."

"You make it sound so easy, and it isn't," Erik says. "I want it to be, but I can't just flip a switch and..."

He turns to look at Charles, who frowns at him. "What?"

"I can't," Erik says slowly, "but you could."

Erik jerks backward, forcing himself out of the memory, staring hard at Charles. "What did you do to me--what the hell did you do to me--"

"What you asked me for," Charles says, and he sounds... tired. "What you said you wanted, at the time. I'd like to say I argued against it, but at that point we were both fairly well wrapped up in the idea of making it happen..."

"I remember." He remembers everything to that point now; the memories are all new and fresh, as if he's only just done all these things, but they're there. They tell the first half of the story, but not the last. "And we somehow got from that to you using me and wiping my memory so I'd never know it." Erik swallows and looks Charles over. "What happened? Did you decide you couldn't give it up, once we had it working?" But that's wrong; if it had worked, why--"Damn it. Tell me--"

"I'll show you." This time when Charles's hand comes up to his temple, Erik braces himself. There can't be much left.

Intensity. Focus. There's nothing but Charles, and Erik's going to have him. Nothing's going to stop him. He grabs Charles by the hair and drags him to the floor, baring his teeth when Charles cries out (but he's not, he's not saying anything aloud, it's all in his mind... no sound outside the room besides an occasional thump).

"You're mine," Erik hisses, giving Charles a rough shove. Charles puts his hands on Erik's hips to steady himself, and Erik catches Charles by the wrist, dragging his hand to Erik's belt.

"Get me out. Make it good. I know what you can do with your mouth; don't make me regret this."

Charles's eyes snap up to Erik's, and he sends a fast thought: «Regrets, Erik, are you...?»

Erik staggers, Charles's grip on him coming loose. The guilt rushes in, the fear of what he might have done--but he didn't, this was going well, they were doing it--

«Get back in my head,» Erik thinks, a little desperate. «I can do this, I want this--»

«So do I--God, you don't know what it does to me hearing you talk like that--» Charles takes a deep breath and puts his hand to his temple, and the world snaps back into hard angles and simplicity. All that matters is what Erik's body needs, what he can have, can take, and Charles is his. Charles belongs to him.

He's rough with Charles like he's never been before, and although in the far back of his mind there's a dim awareness that Charles's fear isn't real, he savors all the ways Charles reacts to him. Fear, reluctance, and finally surrender. It's satisfying on a deep gut level, satisfying to claim him and own him this way. When Erik comes, he discovers Charles is there with him--still sucking hard, taking up the last of Erik's come, Charles gives himself a few rough strokes and comes in hot streaks over Erik's boots.

Reality shimmers, and Erik staggers back to the bed, breathing hard. «Are you all right, did I--»

«Yes, yes, I'm fine, I'm here, I'm fine...» Charles grunts, struggling out of his clothes, and then he comes over to the bed, wrapping both arms around Erik and holding on tightly.

Erik clings to him, shivering. «I'm sorry,» he thinks. Charles stiffens, and Erik wishes he could take the words back. But even if he hadn't been projecting them, Charles would have felt the guilt, the remorse. «I'm--sorry for being sorry,» Erik adds. "Damn," he whispers. "It was almost--"

"Almost," Charles agrees, sliding away.

«This is what it was like for me,» Charles thinks, and Erik twists his head aside, looking away, but too late, too late--

Every time Erik feels guilt over something, it makes Charles want to scream. Scream, or rise up and defend him from all the things he's lived through that were not his fault. He doesn't believe in killing, but for everything Shaw did to Erik, Charles wouldn't regret his death--he'd only regret more blood on Erik's hands, blood Charles believes he'd be better off without.

«You don't know that,» Erik breaks in, «you can't know that, my hands, he needs to die at my hands for everything he did to me, everything he allowed to happen, so many people dead in the name of his experiments, dead in order to get to me--»

Charles barrels on, past Erik's protests: Erik's only a visitor here, watching these memories, unable to change them or affect them. This is how events played out; this is how they played out from behind Charles's eyes. Erik feels the sting of it when Erik asks, over and over, are you all right instead of trusting in Charles, believing in him--

«--and you didn't deserve my faith,» Erik thinks, «didn't deserve it, what you've been doing to me--»

When Erik asks if Charles can change his thoughts, he makes it clear what he's after: block his fear and shame and doubt the way Erik's seen him block inhibitions or duplicity. Just long enough to get through the fantasy. Just for that. Boost his confidence and let him know that whatever he offers, Charles can either take it or stop him.

"Erik, are you sure--"

"I trust you," Erik says, and now, in the present, he remembers saying it. He can only think how foolish he was to ever, ever fall in love with someone who could make reality into anything he wanted--

Inside the memory, Charles pushes. Erik's shame and guilt fall away, and Erik's mind is no longer a tangle. It's pure pleasure, raw need and urgent lust, and it's all for him, all for Charles. Undoctored, none of these emotions forced into a higher pitch, these are all the things Erik truly feels for him.

Charles basks.

There's no fear in Erik's mind. He's not afraid of who Charles is or what he can do, he isn't afraid he's going to take matters too far and hurt Charles, he's just giving Charles his body, sating himself with Charles's hands, or his mouth, or his ass, taking what he wants and refusing to apologize for it.

Until after, when time after time it all comes crashing down.

Still in memory, Erik's stomach pitches, rolls as he looks at Charles by the window. He's taken to drawing away from Charles when they're through and having a quiet shower on his own; he's always thought he did a decent enough job masking his thoughts as he came back to himself.

The way Charles is holding himself says otherwise. He's looking out the window, but doesn't appear to be seeing anything; his eyes are wide and staring, not tracking any motion. He's hugging himself, hands moving slowly up and down his arms.

He's bruised almost all the time now, marks from Erik's teeth or his hands or his belt covering Charles from shoulders to thighs. Seeing them has always made Erik want Charles all over again, but this time Erik holds back, keeps his distance. Whatever Charles is going to say, Erik doesn't want to hear it.

"We have to put an end to this."

Erik nods. "All right. Then that's the last time we'll--"

"Erik. No." Charles looks at him. His eyes are wet. "We have to put an end to this."

"This," Erik repeats, icy cold inside. "Just--this. All of this?" He opens his hands, gestures between them. "You want to destroy everything we have, just because I can't--"

"Go on. Say it." Charles tilts his chin up, defiant now, proud. "I've already heard you. Because you can't love me enough to hate me the way I want, that's what you were thinking."

"You know I don't mean it like that--"

"I know when you're after me this way," Charles gestures at the latest bruise, a sharp bitemark just above his left nipple, "all you're thinking is that you want me, that you love me, that you could never have enough of me." His eyes close for a moment, his expression breaking for a moment before he hardens himself again. "And then when it's over and you can think clearly again, all you can think is that you wish it had never happened."

"I don't wish for that." Erik steps close to him, rests his palm over the mark on Charles's chest. "I know what it means to you, I want to give you that, we don't have to stop anything--"

Charles pulls away from him. "I don't have to ask you," he says, eyes flashing. "If I'm putting an end to this, I can pull it out of your head--make it so you can't remember you ever loved me at all. Is that what you'd like? Would that be better for you, easier--"

Erik reaches out, catches Charles's upper arms and holds on. "Don't. Don't even think that way. I want you, I want to be with you, I just--you need something from me that I can't give you. All that violence--I've done what I've done out of necessity, out of anger and hatred and vengeance, but when it's over--"

"--you don't want to be the man he made you," Charles finishes, weary, his words echoing the thoughts in Erik's mind even as he has them. "And you can't see this as being the man we've made you. Together."

Erik lets him go. His hands are shaking. "I want things back the way they were," he whispers. "You were happy, then. I was yours and we were happy. Do you know how many years I've spent believing I'd never feel that way, ever--"

"Yes." Charles reaches up and pinches the bridge of his nose. "I know exactly how many years, Erik. There's nothing about you I don't know, including how serious you are when you say you want things back the way they were." He exhales, roughly, shaking his head; when he tips his head up again, he looks fierce--and resigned. "It won't last."

It's better than having nothing, Erik thinks, and Charles's eyes narrow.

«I suppose we'll find out.»

The rest of his memories slot in neatly after that. They're all isolated incidents--one minute they're finishing a chess game, and the next, everything empties out of his head except desire, hot and twisted up inside him. Charles cuts off everything else, even the in-the-moment confusion about why he needs Charles so much right then; why he's doing it that way.

Distilled down to just love, desire, and violence, Erik's feelings for Charles are the same as ever, the same blinding need for him, the same passion they've always had for one another. For Charles, it's nearly enough. It gets him through the days when Erik's smiling at him like he used to, not realizing how long they've been past the end of things. Even for Erik, there's some relief in it, a release that keeps him from seeing the strain in Charles's face when Erik says I love you and Charles has to tell him I love you, too.

He'd expected that when he had his memory back, he'd get a picture that made sense. Instead, when Erik looks at it in its entirety, he sees short bursts of overwhelmed, overwhelming passion in a sea of memories he already had. Driving, motels, new mutants, a growing curiosity about their people, a general sense of contentment with Charles.

Charles's modesty in the bathroom: a detail slipped in to cover for the way Charles had to catalogue his bruises, be certain of what he needed to project when Erik was looking at him. Smooth, unblemished skin, all of it a lie.

The fondness is real. The love is real. He can see that much in retrospect.

But he can also see the time bomb, ticking between the two of them. The aching weight of wanting things the way they were, his pitted against Charles's.

«It was over anyway,» Charles tells him. «You just wanted to believe it wasn't, for a little while.»

Erik looks around the motel room, settling himself in the present. After the rush of so many new memories, it's almost hard to remember who he is, let alone where and when.

«Say something,» Charles urges. «Talk to me. We can carry on as--colleagues, nothing more, or you can go, and I'll continue on my own. Or we can go our separate ways, bringing our fellow mutants together but never--never working together again, seeing each other as little as possible. Just tell me.» "Tell me what you want."

"I want to sleep on it," Erik says, voice rough. "Will you let me do that?"

"Of course." Charles puts his face in his hands, rubs at his temples, but for all that Erik's bracing himself for something else, nothing comes. Charles grimaces, though; evidently the thought was all too obvious. "I'm not changing your mind again. We're done with that. Whatever you decide... it's you. Just you."

"Thank you," Erik says quietly. He looks around the room, but barring anything to say, any new revelations from Charles, any certainties from himself... all that's left to do is sleep.

Charles's eyes snap open an instant before Erik's hand covers his mouth. Erik's on top of him, the sheet still between them, and the wide-eyed fear looks as real to Erik as anything ever has.

«Maybe you could stop me,» Erik thinks. «Maybe not. I don't know if I'll ever really trust you again.»

The fear slips away from Charles, but his brows draw together in confusion. And it's no wonder; the emotions radiating from Erik must be dizzying. Love. Fury. Doubt. Suspicion. Desire. Resentment.

"We'll never be even," Erik murmurs. "There's no more wiping the slate clean." He lifts his hand off Charles's mouth. "I'm not the sort of man who believes in forgiveness."

"Then--" Charles frowns even more. "I don't know what you're saying to me."

"I'm not promising anything," Erik says. "I'm not going to say I'll stay, once Shaw's gone. This idea you had for bringing together a new race--guiding it together, shaping it together, leading it--" Erik grits his teeth and takes a slow, deep breath. "The best I can promise you is that we'll get Harvey on a plane today. I'm not going to promise you anything about tomorrow."

Charles starts to reach out for him, but he stops himself. "But...?"

Erik kisses him.

Charles jerks, beneath him, and then he's opening to it, winding both arms around Erik's neck and pulling him as close as he can.

«It doesn't mean I trust you.»

«I know.»

«It doesn't mean I forgive you.»

Charles nods, still kissing Erik, holding onto him as if he'll never let go. «I know.»

One last hot lick, and Erik draws away. "You'll have to put up with the conflict now. It's never going to be simple between us again."

"Nothing is ever simple," Charles whispers, one hand slipping down to cup Erik's cheek. "I'm not asking for simple."

"If you change one more thing about me, and I find out--you'd better hope you're faster than I am." He doesn't need to voice the full threat; Charles's eyes widen, and he swallows, nodding.

"All right," Charles says. "I understand."

Erik looks into Charles's eyes--and yes, he thinks Charles does understand him. He thinks Charles believes him.

He kicks the covers away and presses his body against Charles's, and this time--maybe for the first time--he goes into it with his eyes wide open.