Afterwards, Charles can pinpoint the exact moment he realized he was in trouble.
Lincoln, Nebraska: past midnight, and he's lying awake in the top bunk of the sleeping-car roomette on the California Zephyr. He's starting to wonder if Erik intends to go to bed at all, or whether he'll get out at every stop and pace the platform the way he is now, smoking yet another cigarette, as the porters wrestle with heavy luggage and more sleepy Midwestern travellers board the train.
It's been ten hours since they left Chicago, but the memory of their abrasive encounter with the cigar-smoking mutant in the bar still stings. A simple “No” would have sufficed, Charles thinks huffily, and then laughs in spite of himself at the absurdity of his prim reaction to the wild man's “Go fuck yourself”. Erik had taken it much better, even though he was clearly disappointed – well, of course he'd be interested in a mutant with metal welded to his skeleton. From what Charles had glimpsed of the wild man's thoughts, the feeling was mutual...
The train pulls out of the station, jolting his thoughts back to the present.
“How was Lincoln?” he asks, as Erik comes back in and shrugs off his jacket.
“Much the same as all the other stations,” Erik says drily. “Good to get out and stretch my legs, though.”
Charles averts his gaze as Erik begins to undress. The roomette's considerably smaller than even the cheapest of the motel rooms they've shared on the trip, and they're going to be shut up here together for two long nights. Next time they have to cross the continent, Charles is going to insist on air travel and to hell with the scenery, even if it does mean staying another day before they can get a flight. It's his own fault for wanting to leave Chicago as quickly as possible after that encounter in the bar, he knows, but that doesn't make it any better.
It's awkward, lying here staring at the ceiling while Erik gets ready for bed, and Charles tries to distract himself by compiling a mental list of films with great train sequences. The Lady Vanishes is almost too easy, because that's practically the whole film. The 39 Steps, Robert Donat hanging off the Forth Bridge. Strangers On A Train, with Guy and Bruno joking about doing each other's murders and getting away with it. The Lady Eve, Barbara Stanwyck putting Henry Fonda through the wedding night from hell as she reveals her colourful past. Some Like It Hot, that wild party with the women's orchestra in their pyjamas, mixing illicit cocktails in hot-water-bottles. Marilyn Monroe attacking a lump of ice in the washbasin and lamenting her weakness for no-good saxophonists; Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in drag, on the run from Chicago gangsters after the St Valentine's Day massacre.
Thinking of Some Like It Hot makes him smile, remembering that image of Erik in drag he'd projected to the young woman called Angel in the strip club. He doesn't think Erik suspected what she was laughing at, and Charles certainly isn't about to tell him.
You've never looked more beautiful, darling.
He smirks at the thought of Erik in that terrible ginger wig and turquoise dress, Erik's long legs in black stockings and high black suede boots –
Seriously, the idea of Erik in that ridiculous get-up should not be erotic.
But he's caught in the trap of his own imagination, getting hard at the thought of pushing his hands up under the hem of the dress, feeling the warm bare skin above the stocking-tops, pressing his palm against the bulge of Erik's cock as it nestles in silk knickers trimmed with lace...
He's put a bit too much thought into this, hasn't he? For something that was supposed to be a joke in the first place.
The imagined sensation of cupping and stroking that hardening warm mass through the silk makes him groan. He's so hard himself that it hurts, and his palms are sweating.
“You OK?” Erik asks from the lower bunk.
“Bad oyster,” Charles says, clutching at the first excuse he can think of. “Think I'd better – um–”
He really hasn't thought this through at all. There's no way he can get down from his bunk without climbing past Erik, and there's no way Erik can miss seeing the state he's in. The tent in Charles's pyjama trousers feels as if you could hold a revival meeting in it. Not helping. Think of something else, quick.
“Do you want me to go on top?” Erik asks.
“In case you, ah, need to get out quickly,” Erik says tactfully.
Right. Of course. He's offering to swap bunks, he's not – Of course he wouldn't be. Charles must be losing his mind.
“Thanks,” Charles says. “That's – yes, thank you, Erik.”
“Don't give it a thought,” Erik says.
Charles can't work out if Erik's tone is faintly ironic, or if he's just imagining that.
Erik gets out of his bunk and turns away to pour himself a glass of water. Charles scrambles gratefully down the ladder and dives into the lower bunk.
“OK?” Erik asks, not looking round.
“Yes,” Charles says. “Thanks.”
He takes a deep breath of relief, only to realize he's not OK at all. Because the pillow smells of Erik and the scent is making his mouth water. He bites his lip.
“They keep these cars too warm,” Erik says. “Dries you out.”
He puts the glass back on the railed shelf above the washbasin and swarms up into the top bunk. For a moment Charles could have sworn that... no, it's impossible. There's no reason Erik would be aroused.
That's one hell of a package he's got there, though.
Charles buries his face in the pillow to stifle a moan, inhales another lungful of Erik and pounds his fist against the wall in frustration.
Erik clears his throat, as if he's about to say something, but nothing comes. The silence is like a weight, pressing Charles into the thin mattress. It wouldn't take much for him to come like this, face down, breathing Erik's scent, pressing against the mattress and imagining Erik underneath him. He forces himself to lie still, trying to will his stubborn erection away.
He's just about to tumble into sleep when a thought jerks him awake.
He didn't have the oysters. Erik did.
Someone up there must really hate Charles Xavier, Charles thinks morosely, listening to Erik's deep, even breathing as the train speeds on into the night.