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A Man of Light Virtue

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Erik follows the banker to a surprisingly seedy part of Geneva. The streets are still clean at first, and he realizes where he is more because of the increasingly sordid people than any noticeable change in the architecture. He's never been there before, but he recognizes it just the same. Row after row of bars and private clubs, drunken men stumbling in and out, snatches of voices and chinking glasses as the doors open, while the women walking past meet Erik's gaze head-on, smiling with knowing eyes.

He tails the banker to a street off the main drag, quieter but also more neglected. Erik can see women standing in groups off some of the alleys. He watches the banker enter one of the better-looking townhouses, a very discreet establishment with a bell outside but no plaque on the door. It's too exclusive for Erik to follow him unseen, and anyway the banker will probably vanish quickly into one of those upstairs rooms with the closed red curtains. He's a bit surprised that the man didn't want to go to a dentist first, but, well, he's not one to judge.

Erik stands indecisively in the street, weighing whether it's worth his trouble to wait. He wants further confirmation of Schmidt's location, but maybe the banker can't give him that. He has other leads, clues he's neglecting by following the banker here and waiting while he fucks his cares away.

He steps into a dark doorway across the road, thinking about the women walking the streets and considering satisfying an entirely different urge. He doesn't normally seek out prostitutes, but lately he's been feeling his own suppressed loneliness, and it would be nice to be with someone he wasn't actively threatening. He has a hotel room, so he could even take a woman back there, assuming he's willing to risk the exposure.

He walks a little further down the road, still indecisive, and turns down one of the shabby side streets at random. He keeps his eyes open, looking for more ladies of the evening. He's slightly surprised when he comes upon a knot of boys instead. Several of them leer at Erik as he walks past, offering lewd favors that sound sweet and surprising demure in French. He's not opposed to the idea, but he wants something softer right now, and he's about to turn around and go back when one of the boys catches his attention. He has thick black hair which is curling around the nape of his neck appealingly, looking soft and warm against his scarf. But the main thing Erik notices is his lips, red from the chill in the air or maybe from paint. He feels Erik's gaze and meets his eyes, licking his rosy lips and smiling slow, his look full of promise. Erik finds himself walking up to him like a fish reeled in on a lure. He's a bit young for Erik's taste, but as he comes closer he realizes that he's far older than his boyish face suggests. He has fine lines gathered around his eyes, crinkling up as he smiles suggestively.

"How much for the night?" Erik asks, barely remembering to use French, and the man laughs.

"You don't have to be so blunt, darling. I like to maintain a certain air of mystery at first." He has an accent, English most likely, but his French is good, mouth rolling easily over the heavy vowels like someone who learned it in childhood.

"There's no point in haggling when I've already made up my mind," Erik answers, his own accent sounding harsh in comparison. "We can flirt on the way to your room if you like."

He smirks at Erik again and names a number, rather overpriced for a streetwalker—even one in Switzerland—but Erik is asking for the entire night. He nods curtly in agreement and touches the man's arm, a little surprised by the rich feel of the wool of his coat. "Let's go then."

They walk in silence for a few blocks, the man leading Erik down another side street and through several narrow alleys. It gives Erik time to mentally switch into English, reordering his thoughts. French is a good language for making love, but Erik generally prefers English, enjoying the flat consonants and the places it overlaps with his native German.

"What should I call you?" he asks, making the other man look back at him with surprise and what looks like honest delight.

"Bertie," he answers and Erik snorts out a laugh, coughing and giving the man an incredulous look. Definitely English then.

"Seriously? I'm not sure I can say that in bed. Why not Norbert? Or, Percival? Or… I don't know, Reggie?"

The man smiles, looking away and biting his lip in a wonderful imitation of carefree delight. "Charles then."

"Are you sure? Not Gussie? Or what about Liam? I could go with that, 'Liam, lift your leg, yes, that's perfect'—"

He stops Erik in his tracks, turning around abruptly and touching one finger to his mouth to silence him. "Charles," he says, whispering it like a promise.

Erik's cock twitches and he can't resist the urge to lick that finger, a quick flash of tongue which makes 'Charles' drop his sultry expression and laugh again, pulling his hand away. "Save it," he says, starting to walk again.

"I'm Erik." He says it too loudly and Charles looks over his shoulder at him, smiling like he already knew.

Erik follows Charles down the street, jogging to catch up with him and hoping they're getting closer to his rooms. There's a hint of something else in his voice, another accent underneath, maybe American? Whatever it is he's probably faking his current one, putting on a posh accent over something baser and more low-class. He has a wonderful voice in any event, rich and full of warmth, the mark of a good actor. Erik can't wait to hear what it sounds like when he's being fucked.

Erik fights the urge to put his arm around Charles, knowing he should wait until they have more privacy, but the walk is long and eventually he lets himself put one hand on his lower back, unable to resist touching him now that he has the temporary right.

Charles finally stops when they arrive at a surprisingly elegant pension, having led Erik into a much nicer neighborhood while he was distracted by the feel of his body swaying under his hand. He takes Erik to the side door, leaving him in the garden while he slips around the front to get his room key from the desk clerk. A few minutes later the door opens, Charles smiling and beckoning him into a dark hallway, the plush carpet muffling Erik's footsteps.

Erik finds himself relieved that he didn't bother to change out of his best suit after his visit to the bank, thinking about how he'll have to walk down this tasteful hallway in the morning, going out past the front desk and all the respectable guests dining in the breakfast room. He wonders if the proprietors realize Charles is working out of his hotel room. Maybe they do, he's well dressed and undoubtedly discreet enough to avoid bothering any of the other guests.

Charles finally stops at one of the doors, unlocking it and ushering Erik inside. It opens into a sitting room with a marble fireplace and several French-style upholstered chairs. There's a doorway leading into what must be the bedroom, a light left on inside which casts an inviting yellow glow over the floor. Charles looks over his shoulder and Erik must seem puzzled because he explains, "I don't spend much time in Switzerland normally, but I met someone who wanted to take me along and, well, why not? He paid for the room, obviously."

Erik motions for him to stop, not particularly wanting to hear about Charles' other clients, and he nods, falling silent and coming over to take Erik's coat. He shucks his own as well and puts them both away before going to get a bottle from the side table, pouring two drinks while Erik sits on one of the love seats. Charles comes to perch next to him, sitting close enough that their knees are brushing as he hands one glass to Erik, letting his fingers linger.

He's wearing a black vest, the glossy material cinched invitingly over his waist and showing a strip of white shirt above his trousers, nearly as arousing as a flash of skin. It makes Erik want to touch him and he does so, setting the glass down after one sip and leaning in closer to slide his hands over Charles' sides, resting them on his waist and measuring it with his fingers. Charles is trim, but not quite as slim as Erik in spite of his shorter stature. He feels warm and pleasantly muscled under his clothes, and Erik finds himself very pleased with his recent decision-making. A satisfying night here will leave him relaxed and ready in the morning, better able to focus on the next step of his hunt without any distractions.

Charles dips his head and gives him a coy smile, probably wondering why Erik is just sitting there. He drops his eyes, lashes trembling, and leans in until his face is nearly touching Erik's, letting him feel the ghost of his breath over his mouth. Erik moves closer and kisses him, opening his mouth and enjoying the feel of Charles' lips under his own, one hand running up to sink into his thick dark hair. He kisses dirty, of course, the slide of his tongue teasing, suggesting other possible uses for his mouth. Erik breaks away to gasp and Charles stays close, tugging on the lapels of his shirt and whispering, "We didn't talk about… terms."

"Hm?"

"What would you like?"

Erik smiles and leans back to look at him, running his thumb over Charles' bottom lip. "Your mouth, please, but only to start."

Charles nods, and slides smoothly to the floor, hands wandering over Erik's chest and thighs, pushing his jacket out of the way and gently nudging open Erik's legs with his shoulders. He unbuckles his belt, moving quickly, but Erik still has to tamp down on the desire to help pull it loose with his mind. He certainly doesn't want to scare Charles away now. He has his mouth open, and he keep licking his lips like he can't wait to taste Erik, fingers fumbling a little as they unzip his fly. He really is very good at this.

Erik lies back at the first touch of his tongue, stretching out on the seat and propping himself up on one elbow to watch Charles work. His mouth is sinfully hot and slick and he doesn't bother to tease, taking him in deep and sucking in earnest. He seems curious though and sits back on his heels after a few bobs of his head, studying the cock in his hand and then coming back in to lick around Erik's circumcision scar, making him hiss with appreciation.

"Jewish," Erik says, gasping it as he bites his own fist. Charles hums thoughtfully, the vibrations making him shudder and nearly come right then. It's a testament to Charles' skill; normally a blowjob isn't enough to get Erik off.

"Oh, stop, stop," Erik says, tugging at him. He pulls on Charles shoulders until he rises, bringing him up for a rough kiss. "You're much too good at that and I really want to fuck you."

Charles smiles at that, sitting up a little straighter and taking Erik's hands to pull him up and into the bedroom, helping him out of his clothes as he goes. He steers Erik to the bed, pushing him down on the rich duvet and stripping as he watches, making a good show of it. He's beautiful, muscles clearly defined but not verging on gaunt like Erik, his nipples a dusky red to match his lips and his cock already hard, curving up in a pleasing arch.

There's a little ceramic pot on the nightstand, like for cosmetics, and Charles picks it up, setting it down on the bed as he comes over to straddle Erik's naked hips. Erik puts his hands on his waist again, pushing Charles back until he's sitting directly over his cock, rocking a little and making them both sigh. Charles takes the lid off the jar and dips his fingers inside, sitting up and reaching behind him to take Erik in his hand, slicking him quickly before letting go to prepare himself. Erik can't resist sliding his hand down Charles' wrist, feeling the movement of his fingers as they work inside his own body and then reaching lower to help, his middle finger slipping in easily alongside Charles' own.

"Oh," Charles gasps."Erik." He's moaning wantonly now, but somehow it doesn't sound faked at all. He keeps biting his lip, looking at Erik like he's equally as desperate to get his cock inside. He pulls his fingers out and kneels up, taking Erik's hand and moving it back to his hip while he uses the other to position him. He slides down with the most amazing expression, like he's never felt anything better, never dreamed anything could feel so good.

Erik thrusts up too quickly, not giving Charles enough time to adjust. He gasps and shifts his knees so Erik has a better angle, raising his hands up in the air instead of steadying them on the bed frame or Erik's body. Charles smiles, eyes distant as he stretches and moves with Erik, putting his hands behind his head and running his fingers through his own hair. He slides one hand down to caress his face and sucks a finger into his mouth, lazily running it down to circle a nipple as he bobs up in down. It's maybe the hottest thing Erik has ever seen and he's soon thrusting up harshly, pressing bruises into Charles' hips with his fingers.

"Oh, Erik, oh," Charles mumbles, gasping in time with the movement of his hips. "Do you want, oh, I can, let me do the work."

He puts his hands down, running them over Erik's chest and pressing down firmly, taking over the rhythm once Erik stops. He moves in short, rough slides, copying Erik's earlier technique and somehow knowing to scratch his nails over his flanks, raising red lines all down Erik's sides and over his ribs.

Charles knows how to make it last, slowing his tempo at just the right moments to let Erik recover before beginning again, bending down over and over for quick kisses, biting at Erik's lips and whispering encouragements. Erik finds himself cursing in German, forgetting all his English vocabulary and mumbling into Charles mouth in guttural syllables. Thankfully, Charles must know a little German as he somehow manages to keep following Erik's instructions, stopping his teasing and bracing himself on the headboard, letting Erik thrust his way to completion. Charles comes as well to Erik's surprise, spilling over his own hand and Erik's stomach. Maybe he really was enjoying himself. He's certainly panting like he's as wrecked as Erik, flipping over and landing heavily on the bed next to him. He laughs a little, strangely sweet after everything they've done. "Oh my, that was… mmm, wow."

Erik lets himself fall for the illusion, leaning over and kissing Charles slowly, like they're lovers who would both be here even without the promise of money at the end. He cups Charles' face in his hands and moves to kiss his cheeks, his nose, his eyelids, ending with a lingering kiss on his temple before he slumps back over on the pillow. Charles lets out a pleased sigh and folds down the duvet, hands urging Erik up and over to sink into the luxurious sheets. He gets up and Erik hears a door open, followed by the sound of running water. He closes his eyes, thinking he'll just doze for a minute or two until Charles comes back.

 

* * *

 

When Erik opens his eyes again he's surprised to see light coming in around the curtains, the pale glow of dawn just beginning to brighten the sky. He curses the lost time, reaching over and finding the space next to him cold. Damn it, he really wanted to fuck Charles a second time.

There's a chink of china from the other room and he hears footsteps, the door opening smoothly to reveal Charles in a pale silk robe, smiling when he sees Erik is awake. "Morning, sorry about that. I tried to wake you, but it seemed like you needed the sleep."

Erik grunts, stretching and rolling over onto his stomach. He wants to get up, but can't face the idea of lifting his head from the pillow.

"Tea?" Charles asks. "I ordered up croissants."

Erik nods, still not wanting to move, but thankfully Charles wheels the breakfast cart into the room for him. He pours a cup in a strangely showy fashion, like tea service is part of the package Erik purchased. Maybe it is; he's beginning to suspect that Charles is much higher-end than he first assumed. He seems like the type you keep, setting up in a smart apartment somewhere and lavishing with gifts. Part of him wonders why Charles is bothering to cater to him, since it must be clear by now that Erik doesn't have the kind of wealth it would take to maintain him. Or the stability. More than that though, Erik wonders what drove Charles into the streets last night. He did say he wasn't from Geneva; maybe the lover who brought him here had discarded him without enough money for a ticket home.

Charles seems to be taking his time, and he stops before he gets all the way to Erik's side, pausing with the teacup tantalizingly close. He stands long enough that Erik turns his head, looking over his shoulder to see what's distracting him. Charles is staring back at him, but not at his face, his eyes drawn down to his forearm. Erik has his wrist twisted over and it's lying on top of the sheets so the numbers on his arm are exposed, standing out like black scorch marks next to the white linen.

Erik holds his breath for a moment and then rolls his wrist so Charles can see it better. "Yes," he says, in answer to the silent question.

Charles shakes his head and snaps out of his daze, sitting down heavily on the bed, the teacup rattling against the saucer. "Sorry, I didn't mean to—last night, you said, but I didn't think…"

Erik sits up and takes the cup from him, worried that it's going to spill. "It's all right, I don't try to hide it."

"Not something one normally discusses with one's whores though," Charles says, running a hand over his face. His tone is light, but Erik frowns at the harsh word, catching his arm and tugging Charles over so he's sitting close to him, leaning against his chest. Erik takes a sip from the cup and then sets it aside, holding up his arm and giving Charles permission to stare.

Charles is silent, lifting one hand to cup Erik's elbow, his thumb brushing just below the edges of the ink. Erik feels a little tremor start somewhere around the base of Charles' spine, and then he shudders and releases his arm. "You must have been—"

"Twelve," Erik says. Charles turns his head and Erik sees that his eyes are wet, surprised that a pro would let himself get so emotional over a client. Either he's too soft for this business or an even better actor than Erik thought. It makes him feel oddly tender, letting himself forget the monetary nature of their relationship again as he tugs Charles closer for a soft kiss, carding his fingers though his hair soothingly, like Charles is the one with the nightmare childhood. Well, undoubtedly he has demons of his own.

There's a spoon on the edge of the saucer and it tips precariously as they shift together on the bed. Erik sees it out of the corner of his eye and catches it without thinking, stopping the spoon's descent to the ground and smoothly floating it back to the sheets while Charles is distracted by their kiss.

Charles stills under his hands, jerking back and snapping his eyes open. "Did you—"

He turns around and picks up the spoon, looking at it in wonder and then looking back at Erik like he's the most amazing thing he has ever seen in his life. Erik keeps his face blank, sure Charles couldn't have seen the spoon moving on its own, but not sure how else to interpret his actions.

"Oh my god," Charles whispers. "You're like me."

"What?" Erik asks, watching in confusion as Charles raises his hand to his temple, steepling his fingers there and then suddenly there is someone else in Erik's head.

It's like nothing he's ever felt, like reaching fingers, but more intimate than touching even bare skin, another conscious sliding against his own, feeling excitement and pleasure and those aren't his own emotions. It's Charles—he can tell, recognizes him instantly, the feel of his mind somehow more present and real than his body in front of him. Erik gasps and grabs Charles' shoulders, knocking the spoon out of his hand and gasping out, "What are you?"

I'm like you, I'm a telepath, and with the silent words comes a rush of knowledge, Charles walking in a crowd, feeling the press of thoughts all around him, a thousand strangers wrapped up in their own worlds, their worries bobbing up against Charles and brushing past him like balloons. And then there's Erik on a darkened street, giving him a predatory smile, his mind staining the air, hovering like a dark and violent cloud all around him, and, god—why would Charles ever go with him seeing that? Knowing what he must know? He'd have to be mad—

"Oh, no, Erik," Charles whispers, hands running up his sides, tracing over the marks he left there last night, pressing his forehead in against Erik's shoulder. "No, no—" and the memory continues, Erik feeling Charles' emotions now, curiosity and excitement as he guides Erik through the streets, getting little flashes of anticipation and pain from him, eager to undress him and peel away the layers of mystery. There's a strange sense of compassion underlying everything, a knowledge that there's some deep hurt there that he wants to try and soothe, however inadequately.

There's something else too, something dark in Charles that feels… familiar. A love of danger maybe, but turned inward and twisted into something else, into a desire for destruction, for oblivion, or, no—self-immolation—

The feeling vanishes as quickly as Erik recognizes it, like Charles is tucking it away somewhere out of sight. Erik gasps again, overwhelmed, pulling back and feeling the presence in his mind retreat as well, the loss almost as startling as the invasion.

"How? How?" he asks, still gripping Charles shoulders.

"I'm like you, we're the same."

"I thought—"

"I know," Charles says, kissing him chastely, a quick press of lips on the corner of his mouth. "I know. But it's not—you're not alone, Erik."

Erik pants, sitting back and breathing like Charles was just inside of his body instead of his mind. "You didn't—how could you not know?"

Charles shrugs, raising one hand to stroke Erik's cheek, staring into his face with something like adoration.

"You can read minds, but you didn't realize I could move metal?" Erik persists. "Or about—" he raises his left arm, lifting it off of Charles' shoulder.

"Well, I try not to go poking around in strangers' heads uninvited."

Erik gives him a look, thinking about Charles' almost supernatural abilities the night before, not to mention his apparent ability to understand German. Charles looks away from him demurely, clearing his throat. "It does make certain transactions simpler… But I try to only focus on surface thoughts, current wants and needs, not past memories."

"My god, you don't have any limits, do you? You can open up someone's mind and read it like a newspaper."

Charles shakes his head, "Other things too, I can plant impulses, ideas, even control what someone sees…"

"But, if you can do all that—why are you selling yourself?"

Charles' eyes slide away. "Well, honestly, a lot of the time I don't actually touch anyone… I give them a nice realistic daydream and let them go home thinking they had a bit too much to drink but had a very good time with that cute fairy from the East End." He shakes his head, rueful. "It's a useful talent, but you—" His voice turns breathless and he leans in again. "Is it always like that? Feeling the metal all around? Like everything's humming and vibrating, and just—waiting for you?"

Erik shrugs, "More or less." It's become second nature to him, background noise he hardly registers anymore, but Charles is staring at him in awe.

"Amazing," he whispers. "Oh, Erik, you have to meet Raven—my sister in London! She's like us too, you have to come back with me."

Erik shakes his head, not sure how many shocks he can take today. "What?"

"She can change her face, her clothing, her skin, it's fantastic, her level of control—any disguise, any face. Come on, get dressed!" Charles leaps up and starts pulling clothing out of drawers like he intends to rush Erik to the train station right this moment.

"Charles," Erik says, obliging him by pulling on his pants, but trying to catch his attention as he rushes around the room. He can't even process the idea of meeting yet another person like himself, so he dismisses the notion, deciding to focus on the man in front of him.

"Wait, I still don't understand. Why are you here, Charles, or—what's your real name?"

"Charles Xavier, at your service," he says, holding out his hand and coming back to him. Erik thinks he's being sardonic at first but the look on Charles' face is completely sincere.

"You gave me your real name?"

"I don't really need to worry about hiding my identity when I can easily erase anyone's memories."

Erik stares at him, mouth open. "Is there anything you can't do?"

The corner of Charles' mouth ticks up. "Control metal, for starters."

"But—but why not make people open their wallets to you on the street? You could mug anyone, even a police officer, and he would never remember your face."

Charles looks away. "I've done it before, when I was desperate, but that's hardly a way to live."

"And prostitution is any better?" It comes out harsher than he intended and Charles turns away, going over to the breakfast cart and pointlessly rearranging the china.

Erik runs a hand through his hair, taking a breath before going after him, walking around the cart to stand on the other side facing Charles.

"Erik Lehnsherr," he says, holding out his hand. Charles smiles and takes it, bringing his other hand up to pat Erik's arm.

"Very pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Lehnsherr."

"And I yours, Mr. Xavier."

It should feel silly, Charles still in his silk robe, almost a parody of what an escort should wear, and Erik in only his pants. But it doesn't feel silly at all; it feels like the first genuine thing Erik's done in years. No artifice, no hidden motives, just two men shaking hands and introducing themselves, nothing at all to hide between them.

"I'm sorry," Erik says, surprising himself. He can't remember the last time he apologized. "I didn't mean to sound… contemptuous. Whatever you've had to do, it's certainly not my place to judge."

Charles smiles, looking sad. "It's honest work, really, a lot more so then many 'respectable' jobs. No one bothers to hide their baser instincts from their rentboy." His mouth quirks up. "Not that they can hide anything from me."

Erik frowns. He doesn't like that ironic smile, or the implications there. The things Charles must hear on a day-to-day basis from the men he services… digging through their darkest fantasies, looking at their bleak lives, seeing the world through their eyes, seeing the way that they see him.

Erik reaches out to take Charles' hands again, but Charles steps away, shaking him off and going back to the bed. "Oh, don't feel bad for me, Erik," he says, sitting down. He sounds cold now, his earlier sincerity vanishing. "I'm just a poor little rich boy who couldn't bear to live like the common people when he got disinherited. It's easy to provide what rich men want when you've been one yourself."

Erik shakes his head. A privileged childhood fits with Erik's earlier assumptions, but he doesn't buy Charles' cynicism. He wears it badly, like an ill-fitting suit that he can't help chafing under. "But what about—your sister?"

"Oh," Charles looks away. "What about her? We've always taken care of one another, and we both got cut off at the same time. Raven's a waitress now—only a waitress." he adds, glaring at Erik's questioning look. "I was supposed to… I'm the eldest, it was my job to take care of her, but I made some, uh, shockingly stupid decisions when my—when it happened. Got kicked out of school and then took up with an older man when the opportunity presented itself. It was only supposed to be a temporary solution, but then I couldn't stop chasing our lost wealth and, well. Ten years later." Charles shrugs.

Erik strongly suspects that Charles is exaggerating his own culpability, not wanting to paint himself as the victim, and there's definitely more to his family story than he's letting on.

"Who died?" he asks.

"Hm?" Charles raises an eyebrow. "Do you read minds as well?"

"That's usually how inheritance works."

"Oh, right. My mother."

"I'm sorry."

Charles shrugs. "She made her bed and then we were the ones who had to sleep in it. Stepfathers, don't ever trust them."

"Not something I had to worry about."

Charles' ironic air falters at that. "Do you have anyone—anyone who's still… ?"

"No."

Charles looks down for a moment, but quickly cheers, his face hopeful as he raises it. "All the more reason to come with me to London then."

Erik pauses, going still as he always does when he's full of tension and trying to contain it. "I think I'd like that… but."

He goes to where Charles is sitting on the bed, standing over him and taking his shoulders in his hands, scanning his face closely. "Charles, do you know why I'm here? In Geneva?"

Charles is silent for a moment, staring back at him. Eventually he nods, lips thinning. "To kill someone."

"To find someone. A murderer, a monster, the most terrible—" He licks his lips, wondering how he can possibly ask this of a stranger, but unable to stop himself. Not that Charles feels strange to him any longer, which makes it even worse. "I could use your help."

Charles looks away, shaking his head almost compulsively, and Erik lifts one hand off his shoulder to take his chin, turning his face back to him. "Did you see him in here?" he asks, tossing his head. "I don't see how you could have missed him, he seared his brand so deeply into my flesh, into my mind…"

Charles is looking at him now, but still shaking his head, so Erik tightens his grip on his shoulders, strong enough to hurt. "Look again then."

There's a long second of anticipation and then Charles is back in his head, finding Erik's memories of Schmidt, close to the surface as they always are, prying them open and then Erik is there, feeling straps around his wrists and head, pain everywhere, Schmidt smiling as metal flies through the air, his mother's body hitting the ground with a damp thud.

Charles gasps and lets go of him, gone in an instant and leaving Erik shaken and weak. "Sorry," he whispers. Erik kneels down, no longer able to stand, and Charles' hands come up to cradle his head as he presses his face into his lap, finding that the silk of Charles' robe is wet and realizing it's because he's crying. "Oh, Erik, I'm so sorry, Erik—"

Erik takes a deep breath, letting himself rest in Charles' arms for a moment, counting to five before he sits back and collects himself.

"Will you help me?"

Charles sniffs, bringing his hand to his mouth. He stares at Erik like he can't look away. "Yes."

 

* * *

 

Erik takes Charles back to his own room on the other side of the city, a strange parody of their lust-fueled journey the previous night. Charles looks older in the light of day, worn and withdrawn. Erik doesn't want to think about what he must look like. They're both silent, Charles taking his hand as they walk through the quiet streets and matching Erik's fast stride.

He leads Charles up the stairs to his more modest lodgings, taking down the documents and pictures tacked up on the walls and laying then out on the bed one by one, showing Charles the trail of evidence leading from Germany to Switzerland. The web of connections that link old war buddies, corrupt officials and dirty bankers. He takes out his coin too, not explaining, but placing it over the picture of Schmidt, pushing it down with one finger, the edges of the photograph twisting under the pressure. Then he describes the conversation he had with the obliging monsieur at the bank yesterday, taking out the client list he lifted on his way out the door.

He lays it down next to where Charles is sitting and points to one name, showing him where it also appears on a list of pseudonyms he collected a year ago from one of his contacts. "I believe this is Wilhelm Metzger, one of Schmidt's close associates during the war. He lives here, in the city, and he may know exactly where Schmidt is in Argentina, saving me a lot of time. With your help I can know for certain."

"He was SS?"

"Yes."

"Did you know him?"

"No, I was in a different camp."

Charles nods, taking the papers from him and turning them over carefully. He acts like he's reading them, but spends too long staring at each page, his eyes glazed over and distant.

Erik picks up the coin and goes to his suitcase. He pulls out a new set of clothes while Charles stares at the ground, changing into a black turtleneck and fresh slacks, putting the coin back in his pocket.

"Whether you come along or not, I can't do anything until I can get Metzger alone. He works in the financial district and won't be back until this evening."

"You've already… cased his home?"

Erik nods. "His name on the bank rolls only confirmed what I already knew. I've been checking on him since I arrived in the city. Everyday he goes straight from his apartment to work, and then to a busy café for dinner and back home again by taxi. I haven't tried to approach him yet because I had no way of getting him alone and somewhere secluded. I'm guessing with you that won't be a problem."

"What are you thinking?"

"We wait till the sun sets and go to his apartment. You said you can control what people saw, what they heard. What's your range? Could you silence an entire building full of people?"

Charles frowns, tracing the pattern on the duvet. "Yes."

"Good, then we have some time to kill. Are you hungry again? There's a café across the street."

 

* * *

 

They sit outside in silence and Erik watches how Charles transforms himself in polite company. He's friendly to the hostess, but not in the same intimate and effusive way he was with Erik. He wonders which is closer to the real Charles, his sensual companion from last night or the almost reserved Englishman he sees this morning.

Charles orders yet more tea, while Erik opts for a cappuccino and a proper Swiss breakfast, muesli with eggs on the side, intent on keeping up his strength while he needs it. Charles is very quiet, watching the handful of other patrons in the tiny café. Erik wonders if he's eavesdropping on their thoughts. People watching must be a much more exciting sport for a telepath.

Erik had resolved to sit in silence and let Charles think, but then he looks up abruptly, seeming to come out of a daze and snapping back into focus. "How long have you been doing this?"

Erik has to think for a moment. "Five years."

"What happened five years ago?"

"Nothing." Charles watches him while Erik sits, wishing he'd look into his memories and pull it out if he wants to know so badly.

The waitress comes with their drinks and Charles is halfway into his teacup before Erik says, "Nothing happened five years ago. But before that." He can feel his mouth twisting, lip turning down in a grimace. "My wife left me. And—we had a daughter. We—had."

Charles puts his cup down and reaches across the table to touch his hand. "I'm so sorry."

Erik means to push him away, but instead he ends up turning his hand over and taking Charles' in his own.

"She was afraid of me."

"I'm not," Charles says, squeezing. Erik returns his grasp for a moment and then leans back, pulling away. Not yet, he thinks.

Erik stares at the wall until his eyes stop hurting and his vision comes back into focus, surprised at how raw the wound still feels. Lately he's managed to go whole weeks, even a month, without once thinking about them, only rarely waking to the sound of Anya's screams, surprised to find the bed next to him empty. It's almost merciful, the way he can become so focused on his childhood trauma that it nearly blots out all the pain that came later. He's not really sure why he told Charles, especially when the man could have easily found it out on his own.

Erik licks his lips. "May I ask you something?"

"Of course," Charles says, his eyes swimming, wet and full of compassion.

Erik pauses. He's not really sure how to phrase this in a way that won't sound insulting. "Why were you… Did you find me on purpose? On the street last night?"

Charles purses his lips. "No, I know it seems like quite a coincidence, but I really had no idea. Well, I had this sense… like you were a kindred spirit, but I didn't understand it. Now I do. It's the same feeling I get from my sister, like we belong to one another."

Thankfully, the waitress comes back then, saving Erik from having to respond. She sets down his food and Erik nods his thanks, waiting until she's gone before continuing. "It's just… why were you out on the street?"

Charles laughs. "Where else?"

"I don't know, a bar, a private club. You seem—that's not your usual clientele, right?"

"Whatever do you mean," Charles asks, sipping his tea with his pinky out and looking at Erik with one raised eyebrow.

"Somehow I doubt I could afford you normally."

Charles smirks. "Well, you're not wrong, though I do sometimes like to give, hm, preferred customer discounts?"

Erik coughs a little at that, nearly inhaling some of the foam on his coffee, and Charles' smirk turns outright wicked before his face shifts, growing serious again. "Honestly though, there's more overlap between the high and the low than you might expect. Anyone can go through a rough period when they have no choice but to stand on a corner. Of course, most don't have the benefit of being able to read a man's mind before they get into his car… But you'd be surprised; there are plenty of men who like to pick their mistresses out off the street. Makes them feel like—like knights in shinning armor, goddamned King Arthur 'saving' some poor boy from his sad life." His lip curls up and he sounds angry, voice rising, his tone almost vicious.

Erik puts down his cup. "I didn't mean to bring up old wounds."

"It's okay," Charles says, looking around sheepishly to see if anyone in the café heard him. "They're not so old."

"Is that what happened to you? I mean, here? Someone picked you out and then changed his mind?"

Charles looks away. "No, more like I changed it for him. Look, I'll tell you the whole sordid story later if you want, but the short of it is that I misjudged him. Shockingly so."

"How do you misjudge someone?"

"By not looking closely enough. He was very good at repressing his more sadistic urges. I knew he was controlling, but I assumed I could handle that, mitigate it." He sounds disgusted, not just with the man but with himself. "But when we got to the continent—as soon as I was dependent on him, mind—he became abusive."

"Did he hit you?" Erik asks, tightening his grip on the table.

"Only the once. I wasn't smart about it though, should've had him empty his bank accounts before I suggested that it was an lovely time of year to take a long walk over the Alps."

Erik smiles. He'd been contemplating violence for a moment, a hunt for a different kind of predator, but of course Charles could take care of himself.

 

* * *

 

They spend a long time in the café, long enough that they eventually decide to have lunch as well, but they still have hours more to wait when they get back to Erik's room. Erik wants to do some reconnaissance, go out and check that Metzger is following his usual routine, but he doesn't want to leave Charles alone, afraid that he'll come to his senses and take off. Erik doesn't have time to track him if he disappears into another city right now. Charles starts tidying up the room, probably looking for somewhere to channel his nervous energy, gathering up the papers still scattered on the bed and putting them in a neat stack on the bureau.

Erik is just about to suggest that they go take a walk when Charles comes up to him, taking hold of his lapels and moving in close. He leans up and presses his face against Erik's, but doesn't move in for a kiss, standing in his space for a long moment before giving him a push, steering him over to the bed. Erik backs up until his knees hit the mattress and then falls backwards, pulling Charles down on top of him.

They kiss finally, slow and careful, with none of the urgency of last night. Erik runs his hands up over Charles' back and down his sides, moving restlessly until Charles stops him, taking hold of his wrists and pinning them down on the duvet.

"Do you mind if I… take a look?"

Erik nods and soon feels Charles' presence, sliding in next to his thoughts. He goes slower this time, not the sudden violation of that morning, but an agonizingly careful breach, pushing into Erik's mind like he's parting a series of veils, each one heavier than the last. Outside, where their bodies are, Erik hears Charles hiss, sees his face twist with pleasure as his mouth opens.

Eventually, Erik feels him stop and thinks that he's all the way inside, that he can't get any deeper, and he actually hears Charles hear him, and feels the echo inside Charles' head as he forms an answering thought. Oh no, there are many levels to the mind, many deeper than this. But I don't want to hurt you.

Could you?

Oh, yes, terribly. But I'd much rather—Erik can feel what Charles intends and he gives his consent before he can even form the question, watching from within as Charles reaches for the thread of sensation that connects back to Erik, taking hold of a twisted red line that leads straight to his cock. Erik can see the nerves of his body lighting up, watching the sensation travel up and down his spine and anticipating the pleasure before it even reaches his mind. The physical presence of his body slams back into him, and he's suddenly hyperaware of Charles' weight above.

Erik spreads his legs, hooking his heels behind Charles' calves, and god, they're both still completely dressed, but there's no way he can remedy that now, not with Charles taking the thread again, twisting Erik's pleasure up with his own so it builds between them, until Erik isn't sure which one of them is on top and which is beneath, can't remember who's gripping whose wrists. He can't tell which of them rolls, switching their positions and pinning the other one down hard, rutting on top until they both come, gasping and shuddering together as one.

Their emotions are one too, excitement and pleasure and nervousness, fear about what's to come tonight underlying everything. There's an edge to their passion, a long blade slicing down one side of it, sharp and painful. And there's something else, some deeper feeling that drags Erik down, a strange warmth that he wants to sink into and never escape. He can't tell its origin and he's afraid to look too closely, barely managing to struggle up from its tempting grasp.

Erik comes back to himself slowly, feeling Charles retreat, and gradually coming to connect the separate parts of his body back to himself. Yes, that's his head, pressed into the mattress next to Charles' shoulder, and those are his knees, braced on the bed, and those must be his hands, holding Charles down. He sits up, realizing that he's been clutching Charles' wrists too tightly, releasing his hold and seeing the beginnings of a bruise on one of Charles' wrists, bluish splotches where his cuff got pushed down.

Erik pulls away, jerking back and stumbling to his feet with a shiver. Wait, he hears, before Charles realizes what he's doing, pulling back the reaching tendrils of his mind. "Erik?"

He doesn't answer, going to his suitcase and pulling out a fresh pair of trousers, the second pair he's put on today. He goes into the bathroom, leaving Charles lying in a daze on the bed.

He's made a mess of himself, and would be embarrassed if Charles hadn't done the same, if they both hadn't done it intentionally. He cleans briskly, not taking long enough for the water to heat up.

When he goes back out, Charles has kicked down the blankets and started to undress, curled up sleepily on his side. He smiles at first, but it falls away when Erik turns to the door.

"I want to check on some things, make sure everything is in place."

"Oh, of course," Charles says, hiding any disappointment he might feel.

Erik unlocks the door but doesn't open it. "Will you be here?"

"Yes." He says it without any hesitation, and Erik goes.

 

* * *

 

He walks blindly at first, wandering the streets without any clear goal until somehow his feet take him to Metzger's building, his body knowing what it needs to do even if his mind is confused. Erik waits outside, watching and thinking as the minutes tick by on the bank clock across the street.

By the time Metzger comes out to catch his taxi, Erik has made a decision. It's not an easy one, but he can't miss this opportunity, can't let his mission be derailed, no matter what he loses in the process. Better to do it now anyway, before he's had the chance to fully comprehend what he's giving up.

When Erik gets back, Charles is where he left him, but the bed is made now and he's fully dressed, his clothing clean and neat, showing no evidence of what they did earlier. He doesn't say anything when Erik comes in, and Erik says nothing to him, intent on his preparations. He begins gathering his things, walking around Charles and ignoring his silence. He packs everything, making sure he has all of the documents and photographs safely back in his portfolio, doing a last sweep and cleaning the room of every possible trace he might leave behind.

As he's finishing he opens his case, finding the gold bar there, and smirks. He tosses it onto the bed next to Charles, feeling cruel again now that he's getting ready to go hunting. "Still want your fee?" he asks.

Charles looks at the bar, but doesn't pick it up, one finger tracing over the swastika. He snatches his hand back with a shudder and folds his arms, wrapping them around himself. "I don't know if I can do this."

Erik goes still at that, studying Charles, his downward look and turned shoulders, the ways he's huddled into himself. He goes to kneel in front of him, unfolding Charles arms and taking his hands, trying to hold back the violence bubbling up inside him. "He doesn't deserve your pity."

"I know, I just… I've never really hurt anyone in my life. I haven't even been in a fight since I was a schoolboy."

"How?" Erik asks. "You must have had johns, men who tried to hurt you—"

"But I never. I could always stop them, make them forget me, I never had to."

"And this time you won't either," Erik says, trying to be soothing. "All you have to do is take a look in his head and find one small piece of information. Where is Klaus Schmidt? I'll take care of the rest, you don't need to do anything."

"You're going to kill him."

Erik tilts his head. "He deserves to die."

"I know, but—" Charles looks up finally, meeting his eyes. "Erik, everything you've lived through, I don't want you to have to… I don't think I can bear it."

Erik laughs, finally realizing that Charles' hesitation and pity isn't for Metzger at all. He stands up and kisses the top of his head. "How are you so… I honestly don't understand it. Don't worry about me, I'm going to do this whether you decide to come or not."

He goes into the bathroom to take care of some last necessities, leaving Charles alone on the bed. When he comes back out Charles is waiting for him by the door and he meets his gaze, nodding once. He's silent as Erik goes out, following him back out into the streets.

 

* * *

 

The address is not far, but Erik hails a taxi anyway, impatient now that he's so close. They get out a few blocks away and cross the street, walking past the building and then back again. There's a doorman, and Erik takes his time, considering the best mode of entry. Originally, he'd planning on using the fire escape on the building next door. He feels Charles' hand on his wrist and looks at him, waiting. Charles stares back for a long time, his face blank, and then he leaves Erik's side, walking straight past the doorman, who doesn't stop him, doesn't even seem to realize that Charles is there. Erik follows after, watching in astonishment as Charles steps into the elevator and tells the floor to the operator, the man reacting as if in a dream, his eyes sliding away from them blindly.

"Amazing," Erik whispers. Charles looks at him again and Erik reaches out, lifting his hand and almost touching Charles' cheek before turning away. The elevator jolts to a halt and Erik shakes himself. He can't afford to be distracted right now.

When they get off, Erik delays, checking doors until he finds the floor's trunk room, stashing his luggage inside where it won't be disturbed. He takes off his trench and suit jacket as well, laying them on top and locking the door with a twitch of his hand.

Erik doesn't bother with subtlety, kicking open the door and letting Charles worry about the neighbors. This will probably be the only time he has Charles' help, so he might as well make the most of it.

Metzger is alone, standing from his seat by the fire and shouting, "Who—"

Erik doesn't let him finish, easily lifting one of the fire pokers from the hearth and wrapping it around his neck, holding it high so he chokes and dragging him back against the wall, overturning an armchair in the way by its metal upholstery hooks.

He glances back at Charles, who's standing by the open door with his hand on his temple. He shuts it and nods at Erik, swallowing heavily.

"Guten Abend, Wilhelm," Erik says, switching into German. "Do you know why I'm here?"

The man shakes his head, fingers coming up to claw uselessly at the metal band around his neck. He's an old man now, with graying hair and an almost frail frame. The only light in the room comes from the hearth, the dim firelight flickering over Metzger's terrified face. "I know who you used to be," Erik explains. "Who you really are."

Metzger is shaking his head desperately now, trying to deny it, but Erik cuts him off, twisting the poker tighter.

"There's no point in lying." He looks over his shoulder, back at Charles, who nods.

"It's him."

"Good." Erik waits until he's turned back to Metzger to smile, sparing Charles from seeing his expression as he bares his teeth. "I'm here for one reason, Wilhelm, and once you give me what I want this will be over."

Metzger's eyes are bulging now, both from the terror of discovery and the metal noose growing ever tighter around his neck. One more monster turned into a whimpering child at Erik's feet. His smile widens, realizing that Metzger doesn't even need to speak for this to work, that Charles can rip the answers right out of his mind. "Where is Schmidt?"

Metzger gasps, struggling for breath as Erik sets his feet back on the floor. Erik glances over at Charles and he shakes his head, not coming any closer but staring hard at Metzger.

"Klaus Schmidt," Erik says, making Metzger's head tilt back as he comes closer, stopping only inches away. His face is rather disgusting close up, dotted with liver spots and old scars. "That's all I want, Schmidt. You worked with him once, you've been in contact since the war, yes?" Metzger's eyes roll, looking around the room before coming back to focus on Erik, and he hears Charles gasp behind him.

"There are letters, in the desk." He motions to the corner and Erik goes where he's pointing, watching Metzger with one eye as he opens the rolltop desk there and sorts through the papers inside.

"In the drawer, it's a false bottom," Charles says, forehead creased with concentration as he shifts through Metzger's mind. He's talking in a strange mix of German and English, pronouncing the unfamiliar words like he understands their underlying meaning but not the sounds themselves.

Erik pulls open the drawer and rips out the bottom by the hidden metal hinges, smiling as he cards through the letters inside. He scans the envelopes, quickly finding a familiar pseudonym with a recent postage stamp and an American address. Not the country he was expecting, but it looks authentic nonetheless. He pockets the envelope and continues to flip through the papers. There are other letters, other names he recognizes, noting them for future investigation. At the bottom he finds official letterhead, dates from the '40s, and his heart freezes for a moment at the familiar emblems like it always does, still not desensitized after so many years. He scans the typed pages and holds one sheet up, a list of names, walking back to Metzger and holding it in front of his face. He's stopped panting now, his hands gripping the metal around his neck while his sharp eyes dart around the room like a rat in a cage. "Is this what I think it is?" Erik asks.

"Yes," Charles says, his hand over his mouth. "It's—guard detail, the last rolls at Mon—at the work camp. The numbers are, god—liquidations."

Erik nods, taking the papers and neatly setting them on the table by the door, where they won't be disturbed. He goes back over to Metzger, using the metal around his neck to push him down to the ground, flat on his back. "Thank you for this," Erik says, patting the pocket where he put the envelope with Schmidt's address.

Charles clears his throat. "He has, that is, he wants me to tell you—he has children."

Erik raises an eyebrow. "Dependants?"

"No, grown."

"Where's the wife?"

Charles squints, tossing his head like he's pulling loose a particularly difficult piece of thought. "Still in Germany, there's a mistress here, but she keeps a separate apartment."

"Hm." Erik goes to stand over Metzger, tilting his head. "I had a family once." He stays motionless for a count of ten and then gestures, making a fist and releasing it, unwrapping the poker from around Metzger's neck and watching as a glimmer of hope lights in his eyes. Erik shifts, talking one step back, moving away from him.

He waits a beat and then launches himself back at Metzger, wrapping his hands around his throat and slamming him back down. Metzger claws at Erik's face, fighting for his life as Erik squeezes, using one of his knees to press down on his chest, trying to pin him as he bucks and thrashes. Something crashes hard into the side of Erik's head, knocking him sideways and making his vision go red for a moment. It's the poker, skittering across the floor, misshapen and twisted. Metzger must have been able to reach where Erik dropped it. Careless.

Erik tries to pin Metzger again, grappling with him as blood runs into his eyes, shaking his head and trying to blink it away. Somehow the damned rat slips out of his grasp, crawling surprisingly fast across the floor despite his injuries. Erik launches after him, realizing that he's aiming for Charles with a jolt of panic.

Maybe Metzger went for Charles because he assumed he was the weaker of them, or maybe it's only because he's still standing by the door, blocking the exit. But whatever the reason, it was a mistake. Charles jumps away, tripping over a chair by the door, but Metzger doesn't even get within five feet of him, stopping in his tracks with a gasp of pain. He stands there, stock-still, Charles staring at him with his hand at his temple, and Erik realizes that Charles is holding him there. Keeping Metzger still for him.

Erik gets up with a cough and goes over to look Metzger in the eyes, seeing the frozen horror there as the man tries to move, struggling without so much as a twitch. Erik rips the door chain off the latch, using it to catch Metzger in the chest and throw him back down.

Metzger's limbs stay rigid as he lands on the floor, like he's literally frozen in place, motionless as Erik kneels over him and places one hand on his face, covering his mouth and pinching his nose shut.

Metzger doesn't even look at him, his eyes focused on Charles, watching him as the life drains away and his eyes glaze over. He shudders one more time, a last helpless attempt to shake Erik off as Charles releases his hold on his mind, and then he's gone. Erik keeps his hand where it is, feeling for a pulse and not letting go until he's satisfied that he's truly dead. His eyes are still open, staring blankly at Charles.

Charles jerks as Erik sits back on his heels, moving from where he's been standing against the door and clapping his hand over his mouth, rushing past to disappear into the back of the apartment. Erik looks down at Metzger's body, nodding to himself and patting the paper in his pocket again just to hear it crinkle. He goes to collect the packet of papers he left on the side table, selecting one of the more irrelevant ones, a short cover letter for a report. He places it on the body, dead center on the chest, making sure the imperial eagle is visible, looking knowingly at Metzger's face as it perches atop the swastika. Erik can't resist leaving a grisly signature, running his thumb through his own blood and making a red thumbprint on the top margin. Originally he was going for stealth, afraid that someone would alert Schmidt before he could hunt him down, but he feels more confident now that he has the envelope, the date on the stamp less than a week old. Erik smiles at his handiwork and hopes rumors will spread through Metzger's associates, keeping them up at night wondering who. And also who next.

Erik follows the sound of Charles' retching, walking down the dark hall and finding him in a kitchen, leaning heavily over the sink as he throws up.

Charles spits. "The things—when you showed him that list, the things in his head, his memories—ugh." He gags again, dry heaving several more times before the spasms stop and he rests his head on the side of the metal sink. Erik twists the tap with a wave of his hand, turning on the water for him, and Charles drinks, washing out his mouth and splashing his face with it.

When Charles finishes he turns around, wiping the water from his eyes and startling as soon as he sees Erik. He comes closer, reaching out to take Erik's head in his hands. "You're bleeding."

"Kopf—head wound," Erik says, letting Charles turn his head back and forth. "Lots of blood, but I doubt it's serious."

Charles lets go of him and finds the light switch, making Erik blink in the harsh light of the overhead lamp, pain shooting through his skull—maybe the wound is worse than he assumed. Charles comes back to hold his head again, pulling open his eyelids and inspecting his pupils, making Erik close his eyes and then open them to squint up at the light, checking that the dilation is normal.

Once he's satisfied, Charles finds a towel, opening one of the drawers like he knows this kitchen, and Erik realizes that he does, Metzger's memories still burdening his mind. Maybe they always will; he never asked if Charles could make himself forget.

Charles makes Erik sit down at the table as he cleans the wound, wetting the towel and carefully dabbing away the blood. "You need stitches," he says, but Erik shakes his head, regretting the motion immediately as his vision narrows and spots appear around the edges. Charles goes to fetch a first aid kit from one of the dark rooms, taping up the cut instead.

"Did anyone hear us?" Erik asks.

"You mean besides the entire building? Yes, but they've all decided to go to bed instead of investigating."

Erik smiles. "You're amazing."

"You keep saying that," Charles says, not smiling back. After a moment he turns away, putting the towel in the sink and rinsing it out. Erik is going to miss him, no question. The things they could do together… well, no point in dwelling on it. What's done is done.

Erik gets up and puts his arm around Charles, taking the rag he's pointlessly wringing out and turning him away from the sink. There's a servants' door in the far corner of the kitchen, and Erik means to lead Charles over to it, opening the latch with his mind, but he finds himself distracted, staring down at Charles' face instead.

He looks pale and flushed at the same time, his face white while red blotches stand out on his cheeks, matching his lips, rouged again like the first time Erik saw him. He knows it's a bad idea, but he can't help but think that this is his last chance, reaching up to touch Charles' jaw and turning him into a kiss. It should be disgusting; Charles was just vomiting and there's still blood all down Erik's face, but it isn't, Erik's heart starting to race again and his blood surging with sudden need. Charles is unresponsive at first, his lips motionless, but then he jerks in Erik's hands, not pulling away but dragging him closer, arms going tight around Erik's neck as he moves backwards, hitting the sink again and trying to boost himself up on the counter, struggling until Erik gets his hand under his ass and lifts him.

Erik breaks away to bite down Charles' neck and collarbone, gasping as Charles' hands tighten in his hair, pushing his head down towards his lap. Erik goes eagerly, tearing Charles' shirt out of the way and opening his pants with his mind, dropping down to take him in his mouth, sucking him in without any of the finesse Charles showed yesterday, teeth scraping over skin. Charles cries out and then he's pushing Erik away just as quickly as he shoved him down, following him to the floor, his thoughts slamming into Erik's head like a physical blow take me fuck me I need you—

Erik gasps, knocking his head on the floor and wincing at the pain, one of his hands sliding down into his pants to palm himself. Charles makes quick work of Erik's belt while Erik spits on his other hand, getting as much saliva as he can and slicking his cock as Charles pulls him over on top of him, greedy hands everywhere. He pulls his legs up over Erik's shoulders, skipping a step as Erik still hasn't managed to get his pants down. He tries one handed, wrestling with Charles' waistline as he spits on his fingers again. It's not nearly enough, there's no way this isn't going to hurt, but Charles is clawing his back with his fingers now and practically shouting in his head now now now inside me get inside me.

Erik is not totally sure he's in control of his own actions, but he doesn't care, hitching Charles up on his thighs a little and getting his underwear down just far enough to be out of the way. He tests his route with one wet finger, finding Charles open and ready, his body clamping down hard on Erik's fingertip as he curses in frustration more more more. Erik tries to oblige him, shifting and pulling Charles into position by his hips, bending him in half and leaning down heavily with his hands braced on either side of his head. Charles arches and throws his head back, exposing his throat and mumbling, "Yes, god, Erik—" you feel so good fuck me fuck me.

He tries, but Charles won't stop squirming, pushing back and impatiently trying to impale himself, so Erik sits back up and gets a strong grip on his hips, pinning him in place so he can slide home in one long, rough thrust. Charles hisses, in pleasure or pain, most likely both, closing his eyes as Erik starts to move, still pinning Charles to the floor so he can't ruin his rhythm with his eagerness.

It doesn't take long, Erik starting to see spots before the end and whiting out as he comes, probably more from the blood loss than his orgasm. He rests his head on the ground and listens as Charles follows him, riding Erik's climax like he did the night before, his slightly delayed pleasure ripping through Erik's mind and nearly making him white out again.

Erik sits back on his heels, feeling dizzy and thinking he should be sickened by what they just did. He feels like he would be, if only he didn't want to do it again as soon as possible. Charles is coming back to himself now, looking up at Erik with a dazed expression which snaps into focus with sudden horror.

"Ah," he says, sitting up, hands rising to hover nervously in the air next to Erik's head. "You're bleeding again, shit." Charles untangles himself and stumbles to his feet, pulling up his pants and snatching the towel back out of the sink. He presses it to the side of Erik's head, making a face and mumbling, "Sorry, that was… uh, ow."

Erik's not sure if Charles is referring to his head wound, or his own discomfort, but he feels too numb to ask, standing up as Charles helps him get his clothes in order, using the same dish towel to wipe off Erik's stomach and trying pointlessly to remove some of the new stains on his shirt. Erik takes the cloth away from him, his lip curling in disgust, balling it up and tucking it into his back pocket to dispose of later.

"Let's get out of here," he says, taking Charles' arm again and finally getting him out the kitchen door like he originally intended.

He loosens his grasp when he realizes he must be hurting him, crushing the same wrist he bruised earlier. He guides Charles down the hallway past the neighbors' doors, praying Charles is still keeping them oblivious in their beds. Charles stops as they go past Metzger's front door, seeing the shattered paneling Erik broke when he kicked it in. "Wait, the body—shouldn't we… ?"

Erik shakes his head, "No need. No one will remember us coming in so there's no link back to you, and I'm leaving the country tomorrow."

Charles nods, looking troubled, but he lets Erik lead him to the trunk room, watching as Erik gathers his luggage and puts on his coat, relieved to cover up the stains all down his front. He takes them down the stairs and out a locked side door. Charles could cover their tracks easily, erasing the doorman's memory of their exit just as he did their arrival, but Erik suspects that he would rather not to use his powers right now.

Erik lets go of Charles once they're out in the street, releasing him so he can walk away whenever he wants to. He's already escaped one violent, dangerous man in Geneva, Erik can't see why he'd want to replace him with another.

 

* * *

 

Erik knows exactly where he's going next, has already picked out a new hotel closer to the station and his morning train out of Switzerland; the first step in a long journey which will hopefully have a very satisfying ending. He takes an indirect route, walking without hurry and expecting Charles to leave his side every time he takes a new turn. But Charles doesn't leave, walking with his head down and his hands in his pockets. He looks up when they go down a particularly dark alley, shaking his head like he's coming out of a dream and actually stepping closer to Erik, threading his arm through his and leaning against him. Erik tries to hide his surprise, enjoying Charles' closeness and wondering if it's a prelude to a goodbye kiss.

He's sure the time has come when Charles stops him under a streetlight, but he only reaches up to tilt Erik's head down, examining his wound again and letting them continue walking once he's satisfied it hasn't reopened. Maybe he's only concerned about his injury then, wanting to see Erik somewhere safe so he doesn't have to worry about him passing out in a gutter somewhere. Erik lets himself hope that Charles' concern lasts all night, considering suggesting that he might have a concussion after all, and will need someone to keep him from falling asleep…

They arrive at the street with the hotel much too quickly, in a neighborhood where the buildings are shockingly neglected for Geneva, walking until they arrive at the seediest one. Charles goes in to arrange the room, back on familiar footing again. He leaves Erik standing outside facing away so the old woman behind the desk can't see the blood on his face. He watches her leer at Charles through the office window, probably asking if he wants to book a room by the night or by the hour. The cost is small in any event, Charles sliding a few bills to the woman and coming out to fetch Erik.

Erik stumbles on the steps inside, as they're on their way to the upper floor, and has to pause for a moment, surprised to find that he feels light headed again. He wasn't trying to be manipulative, but he's still pleased when Charles turns back to take his arm, hands running anxiously over Erik's side.

"Hold on, we're almost there," he whispers, the first thing Charles has said to him since they left the Nazi's rotting corpse on the floor of his apartment.

Erik leans on him a little heavier than he needs to, letting Charles deal with the keys and the lock. He unlatches the door after several tries and takes Erik inside to sit on the bed. Erik lies back, covering his eyes with his hand and trying not to think about the stains on the coverlet. God knows he's covered in worse right now.

Charles goes into the bathroom, turning on the tap, and Erik wonders if he's throwing up again. But he doesn't stay away long, coming out with a damp handkerchief and laying it over Erik's eyes. Charles sits down on the bed next to him, not quite touching. Erik can't see his face, but he's sure Charles is staring away at nothing, probably wondering how he found himself here, who this monster is he followed through the streets, and how it is he ended up helping Erik kill a man not twenty-four hours after meeting him.

Erik's head feels heavy and he lets himself drift down into sleep, telling himself not to be surprised when Charles is gone in the morning.

 

* * *

 

Erik starts awake to the sound of cars in the street, a honking horn and voices near the open window. His hand goes to the place where Charles was sitting, finding it empty and cold. He sits up, his head resisting every inch of the way, pain pounding in his temples.

The room is empty and Erik blinks, trying to shake off the heavy load of sleep and pain weighing down his mind. He doesn't let himself feel disappointed.

He goes into the bathroom and washes his face in the cracked sink, frowning at the mess he sees in the mirror. The cut on his temple actually doesn't look too bad, having scabbed over in the night, but Metzger managed to give him a black eye as well, the bruise looking swollen and nasty in the thin light shinning through the curtains.

He stares at himself and thinks, trying to plan his next moves. He's been freelance for a long time now, but he'd been considering calling in when he finally got to this point. Years earlier, Erik had decided that he didn't feel comfortable with himself—or his abilities—belonging to any government, even a Jewish one. That and that he preferred being able to pursue his own agenda without regular check ins and bosses trying to control his every move. But now… he's so close, closer than he's ever been, but he has no idea what to expect when he finds Schmidt. It might be worth checking in, just to see if any of his 'old friends' have any intelligence they're willing to share. Earlier, Erik had resolved not to make contact as long as Charles was with him, afraid of putting him on their radar, but that's not a problem now.

Erik is still fussing over his reflection, wondering if his sunglasses will hide his eye or if he'll need to buy a new pair, when he hears someone in the hall and the door to the room unlocks. He freezes, moving to stand behind the open bathroom door, contemplating yanking the towel rack off the wall to use as a club.

"Erik?" a voice asks, and he feels a familiar pressure in the back of his skull, Charles reaching for him. There you are.

Erik steps out and sees that Charles is carrying a suitcase in one hand and a white bakery bag in the other. "I stopped to get breakfast on the way back. I hope you don't mind, but I got the train time from you earlier. Saw the ticket in your mind. I didn't want to risk missing you." He opens the white bag and hands Erik a croissant, still hot from the bakery oven. Erik takes a bite and follows Charles back into the room, sitting down and marveling at the delicious flaky crust, afraid to think about Charles' return, to misinterpret his packed bag.

Charles has changed into a new shirt and a rather frumpy-looking cardigan, looking cozy and at home as he bustles around the room, opening Erik's suitcase and laying out clean clothes for him. He finds the discarded handkerchief on the floor, picking it up and folding it away into his pocket. It's another demonstration of Charles' expert ability to make the abnormal seem normal, to gloss over the disturbing subtext and focus on creating a pleasing fiction. Erik feels slightly nauseous. It could be the head wound, but he doubts it.

He tries to focus on making himself presentable, ignoring Charles and changing out of his disgusting clothes. He balls up his old pants and shirt, resolving to throw them both away on the walk to the train. They were expensive, but he can't imagine the story he'd have to tell the cleaner.

Charles is giving the room a last look, nodding to himself. "We can try to catch a cab or walk if you're feeling up to it. We're only a few blocks from the station, but I'm sure you knew that."

Erik swallows, brushing the crumbs off his hands and deciding that he can't take the suspense any longer. "We?" he asks.

Charles looks back at him with surprise. "Aren't we going to Argentina? I thought you wanted to leave right away."

"America," Erik corrects. "He's in the States now." And then he bites his lip so hard he tastes blood. He wonders for a moment if the blow to the head was more serious than he thought. Maybe this is a hallucination. Charles is giving him a puzzled look and he comes closer to Erik, wiggling his fingers to ask permission and then slipping effortlessly back into his head.

"Oh," he says. "Oh, Erik," sounding strangely long-suffering despite the short length of their acquaintance. "Of course I'm coming."

"You're not—"

"What—shocked? Revolted? No, I mean, at myself, yes. Not that that's unusual. Although, admittedly, being an accomplice to murder is something of a new low, even for me…"

Charles drifts off for a moment, looking away before shaking his head and frowning at Erik's frozen expression. "Sorry. I mean, I'm sorry about—about last night. I promise that's not normally my idea of a good time. I honestly don't know what came over me." He clears his throat. "We do, uh, need to talk about some things, clearly. We both have… well, we are who we are. But— I can't let you slip away from me now."

It's a weak excuse, and Erik closes his mouth, deciding it's better to nod and not say anything.

"Anyway," Charles continues. "I'm not exactly an innocent soul, are you forgetting how I make my living? I've never been there, but I imagine a hustler won't be out of place in Buenos Aires."

"Miami," Erik corrects again, and Charles nods, waving his hand vaguely as he gathers up their suitcases. He takes Erik's elbow with his other hand and opens the door, pulling Erik out into the hall.

"Besides," Charles adds as they start down the stairs. "I'm not letting you off the hook, I was serious about what I said yesterday. I can't wait for you to meet my sister."

Erik stops in his tracks, jostling Charles and forcing him to stop too. "What?"

"You'll like Raven, I promise."

Erik shakes his head. He's one step below so their faces are level as he leans in, resting his forehead against Charles', not going for a kiss, just listening to him breathe for a moment. He feels Charles in his head again, asking without any words, Are you okay?

Are you?

Charles' face falls, the mask of lightness dropping off. "No," he says, the word coming out in a rough whisper.

"Me either."

"Well." Charles steps back, smiling again, but a real smile, sad and tired and painful to look at. "It's a place to start." He holds his hand out, beckoning to him, and Erik takes it, following him down the stairs and out into the streets once more.