Charles was falling asleep when he first heard it. It was a small, pleasured sigh ghosting over the room. It’s been a long day, a long flight and lately, all his traveling turned him into something between jet lagged and narcoleptic and he’s been trying to sleep for almost an hour now. But the sigh is sweet in his ear and unfamiliar enough that it startles him so he scrolls through the minds nearest to him, searching for the source.
Erik, in his room down the hall, is asleep and dreaming restlessly. Angel and Raven are in the lounge, discussing polite trivialities. Hank is in his lab, too far away to be anything but a dulled presence. Sean is in the kitchen, building an intricate sandwich. Armando is getting ready for bed, choosing pajamas. The guards are all milling about mindlessly or enjoying some sort of work break.
Charles withdraws, thinking he imagined it until he hears it again, a small breath and the warmth of water rushing down his back. He follows the sated feeling to its source and recognizes that someone is showering. He doesn’t understand for a moment who would be so content in a shower but then it manifests. Alex.
He’s so quiet, Charles thinks. This is the first he’s heard Alex’s thought without seeking him out. Why hadn’t I noticed that?
Everyone else in the facility is loud in their thoughts, unabashed and completely open. Alex is quiet, like gentle wind rustling the leaves of a tree. This is the first time he had projected and it is involuntary. Charles feels his sudden gratitude and relief. His mouth tastes the pasta they had for dinner and he can smell the peppermint scented shampoo Alex using, the pull of comfort across his back.
Before he can feel like an intruder, Charles falls asleep with waves of heat down his back and a full stomach.
Charles wakes the next morning and wanders around the facility, feeling well rested and loose-limbed. As he heads for the kitchen, he finds Raven in the lounge, reading and absently filing her nails. Charles kisses her forehead chastely in greeting. She murmurs her affection in return. Everyone else is asleep and Erik is getting showered. They have to meet Moira today and Charles has always been an early riser.
He’s almost surprised when he finds Alex in the kitchen, but then he remembers the wash of heat and genuine gratitude in his chest and ops for embarrassed instead. Alex barely glances at him before returning to the paper set before him. Charles watches his gaze linger on the date before turning to the cover page article. Before he can stop himself, he says, “You should eat something,” then realizes he’s skipped pleasantries all together.
Alex doesn’t seem to mind, turning the page absently, “I already did.”
“Oh,” Charles says. He rounds the table to head for the refrigerator, “Right, of course, you can help yourself to any and all food and no one will stop you.”
Alex’s mind is low, under the steady rustle of paper and Charles can only hear half-inaudible murmurs without dipping below the surface. He stands at the open fridge, feeling the whispered press and shuffle of newspaper until the flutter of wings shakes him out of it. He reaches for a yogurt carton as Angel strides in, wings contracting loudly and bright thoughts spreading across the floor. They exchange greetings as she grabs an apple at the table before heading to the sink and rinsing it.
Charles stares down at his yogurt and almost involuntarily, listens to the silent hum of Alex reading to himself: a news article about smoking and health studies. He eats thoughtfully and leaves Alex be, making small talk with Angel until she breaks into a series of sneezes.
“Bless you,” Charles offers nonchalantly and she thanks him just as carelessly. He’s tossing out the empty carton when he picks up a string of swear words from Alex, —missed that, wasn’t I supposed to offer a tissue, right? Is that too much? Does she think I’m rude? Did the Professor bless her?
Charles rings out, “You’re quite welcome, Angel.”
She probably doesn’t hear him, having already walked out of the room, but Alex’s shoulders sag with relief and his thoughts revert to thrumming.
Charles is tempted to ask how long he was in jail, how much of that time was in solitary, how long he’s been alone, but Erik’s shoes and magnetism come twisting down the stairs and he is distracted.
“I expect more from you.” Alex.
Russia is loud and cold without Erik squeezing his knee the entire plane ride.
Hank is the first he hears—a strong course of scenarios and theories with numbers tumbling between them like a double helix collapsing. Sean’s thoughts are fumbled, gathering coherency in hot flashes of anger and pity. Raven’s voice is shaken and forlorn but the strongest, the steadiest. Armando and Angel are both gone, the facility is wrecked.
Alex is silent when he looks for him but when he ushers into his mind, the hum is racing, thoughts strung together in a half-hearted rush and silent vibration. Before it starts to give Charles a headache, he withdraws.
Things settle at the mansion. Initially, everyone has a somber recognition of what living in the mansion means but by the first night, Charles is too distracted to worry. Erik’s commentary and anger are growing increasingly alarming. Raven is lulling about the house in her blue form and Alex’s power needs to be honed before it’s too late. All of their powers do.
Charles has to expect that Shaw has experience fighting alongside a telepath and thereby, against them. He’s always been careful about his power; the human mind is so susceptible to injury and Charles is adamant about retaining some morality. He wanders at times, careful in his tracks—how cast his mind must be for all the others to fit so delicately together or drift in one after the other. Or maybe he’s the one that drifts, a mental suitcase packed with his bare essentials: memory and an anchor to his physical body.
He spends so much time traveling, where is his home? Where can he rest without the need to enter another’s mind? Who else would treat his thoughts as delicately, when most people don’t realize how flippantly they abuse their own?
Erik provides distraction and Raven when Erik is unavailable. There is never a dull moment in the house, only quiet ones. Brushing past Alex in the hall and reaching out for the rich timbre hum of his mind. There are louder moments that punch out when they’re triggered. Eating banana bread stirs nostalgia and swimming makes Alex jovial and light-hearted. Charles can’t help but catalog, suitcase in hand.
At the end of the first week at the mansion, Charles wanders absently through the house, psyching himself to up to visit his father’s study on the third floor. Technically speaking, he’s been psyching himself up for years. It’s been a long time since the house has been inhabited it shows. The third floor is empty of bedrooms, dust collecting on bed posts and bookshelves.
He’s not expecting it but isn’t deterred when he opens the door to the steady thrum of Alex’s mind as he sorts through them casually. Alex is sitting on the floor, back to a bookshelf and books layered and spread eagle on his lap. He glances up when Charles strides in, “Evening, Prof.”
“Alex,” Charles greets, entering the room.
The room is decorated in dark wood and leather chairs with warm light. Two before the desk, one behind it; three walls covered in bookshelves while the fourth contains wide and tall windows. The curtains are pulled back, reflecting the room from the dark beyond the glass. As a child, Charles came here often, to watch the night sky and try to collect his head. He doesn’t mind Alex being here, the surface ripple of his mind is oddly soothing.
It’s past eleven, nearly midnight, and Charles can see the circles under Alex’s eyes, has seen them all week, and figures Alex has been making a habit of this. He’s wearing pajamas, though, a t-shirt and dark bottoms, so someone must think he’s asleep and in bed. Otherwise, he would only have himself to convince.
“I’m sorry about the mess—oh shit, is it okay for me to be here?” Charles can hear the panic behind his eyes, “I just assumed it’d be okay—Erik said it was okay and Raven—“
Charles holds up a hand to silence him and the panic falls away. “It’s alright, Alex, the room is not restricted. Though, in future matters, I’d prefer if you consulted me rather than Erik. He does not speak for me.”
“Oh.” Alex frowns and then perks at the idea of remembering a social cue, “Sorry!”
“It’s quite alright. Honestly,” Charles perches himself at the edge of the desk. “Though, it is a bit late, perhaps you—“
“Go to bed?” Alex interrupts unapologetically. “I think I’ve spent enough time being told when to sleep and when to wake, Professor.”
Charles hears the thrum sharpen with something akin to indignation and decides to drop the argument all together. “Right, of course, you are welcome to stay,” he picks up a book from the desk, brushing dust off the spine the title and author in French.
“Won’t I be getting in the way?” Alex gestures to his temples.
Charles shrugs, setting the book down. “No, I don’t make it a habit of rooting around in people’s thoughts. Sometimes people project their thoughts, but I can block them. I can block you if you like.”
“Doesn’t putting extra effort in ignoring me tire you out?”
“It can,” Charles replies.
Alex chews his lip, thoughts stirring and slapping against each other like water. Charles thumbs through another book—but finds it is in Portuguese. I don’t mind.
Charles looks towards him but Alex is back to his book already, reading what sounds like religious theory. He grabs a third book—English this time—and sits behind the desk, resting his head on the leather to listen to Alex’s melodic thinking and staring at the pages.
As training picks up, the physical activity more or less wears Charles out, so he stops wandering the mansion at night. But when Erik is particularly cynical during their nightly chess game, he heads for the study to read for an hour or so and calm down before retiring to bed. Sometimes Alex is there, sometimes he isn’t. Charles tries not to look for him because usually it involves digging, but he can’t help the worry. When Alex isn’t close enough to see, Charles can hardly feel him at all, met with murmured silence across the house.
The first night of training though, after he sets the bunker aflame three times in a row, Charles seeks him out. There’s an unusual tension in his shoulders at dinner and Charles had to shut everyone out to hear the infinitesimal voice, retelling failure. He finds Alex in the study, sitting on the floor with books stacked precariously around him.
He’s reading Kant when Charles walks in but ignores him completely and pretends to skim a volume by Rousseau. From where he’s standing, Charles can see it’s in another language. He crosses the room and kicks the stack of books over so they fall away from Alex. He frowns at the books as Charles says, “You shouldn’t surround yourself with the thoughts of dead men.”
“Don’t tell me what to surround myself with,” he sets the volume down and stands, shouldering past Charles.
Charles watches the slope of his shoulders tense and asks, “Where are you going?”
“I suddenly feel like setting entire rooms on fire. Training.”
Charles goes after him into the hallways, “May I come along?”
Alex glances over his shoulder at him, “You’re a free man, Professor. You can do whatever you like.”
Alex storms down to the bunker and Charles follows after him silently. His mind isn’t even thrumming, thoughts hollowed to count the stairs and turns they take, as if to memorize the way out. They don’t meet anyone on the way down; they’re the only two awake at this point. It’s past midnight but this time Alex is still dressed in his leather jacket and jeans. He’s given up on the pretense of sleep. At the entrance, Alex stops. He cocks his hip against the doorway and Charles leans back against the adjacent wall, asking quietly, “Are you a free man?”
Alex hesitates, Charles watches his shoulders droop slowly. The hum of his mind is quiet and deep, rain pelting cement. “No,” he sighs, “No, I’m not.”
Charles tips his head back against the wall, waiting.
“This goddamn mutation.”
“You’ll get it under control, Alex. Give it time.”
Alex laughs, humorless and the thrum of his rain slows. “It’s had almost ten years, Professor. I can’t give it anymore. It took my adolescence and my social life, it took my family and it’s going to keep taking. And this—I want this, Professor. I want to get over this, to control it. I want to be teenaged and grow into a dry adulthood with taxes and a mortgage. But I can’t. It takes it all. It has taken all I have. Starting with my freedom.”
He leans his weight on the doorframe and turns to face him, sighing into the metal. From where’s he’s standing, Charles catches a whiff of vanilla on Alex’s breath. It perplexes him—as far as he knows, there is no vanilla flavored treats in the mansion—but he drops the inquiry.
“You know, your mind is quiet astounding.”
“Really,” Alex deadpans.
“When I was a child, I could hardly understand what I did and before I realized that I was reading thoughts, before I could manipulate and sculpt coherence into it, my head was a mess. It was just a tangle of people screaming at me. School was the worst. I thought I was going mad. Hence, when I learned to control it, I grew to appreciate the quiet. But it was difficult to attain, as blocking everyone exhausted me rapidly.”
“What does that have to do with me?”
“I haven’t been shutting you out.”
“I told you I didn’t mind,” Alex dismisses.
Charles leans on his side to look at him, “No, it’s more than that. I don’t have to put up blocks around you—everything you think is collected and hushed. Your mind is perpetually calm.”
Alex is silent, waiting for him to continue.
“How long were you in that jail, Alex? How long where you in solitary confinement?”
Charles casts him a look, chiding gently, That’s not going to cut it as an answer.
“I was fourteen.” Alex shrugs, eyes straying to the wall behind Charles, the ground and his palms. “Why?”
“Your thoughts are like whispers, constant enough that it’s soothing. They remind me of how people move in the darkness, in libraries and hospitals, afraid to disturb the silence.”
There’s a pause between them, filled with Alex fidgeting and scowling. “And?”
Charles shrugs, meeting his gaze, “Perhaps you’ve spent more than enough time closed off.”
“And moving around in the darkness?”
Charles nods. Alex mimics him, clenching his hands like he’s trying to grasp something.
The training goes alright that night.
The next few days, Alex’s training sessions stabilize. He seems to be making slow buy significant improvements, which is why it comes with some surprise when he sets the bunker ablaze. Charles finds him in the library rather easily. It’s nearing two in the morning and there is a cigarette rolling between his fingers but he smiles welcomingly at Charles nonetheless. He’s standing against the glass in windows, but none of them are open and the smoke is caged and twisting around him. Charles closes the door behind him and pockets his hands, attempting to appear nonchalant.
Alex scoffs at him, “You’re not as sly as you think you are, Professor.”
Charles grins, self-deprecating, “No, I suppose not.”
“So, to what do I owe this visit? Do you want to have another heart to heart? Has my mind been silent and sullen of late?”
“I dunno, has it?” Charles moves past him to open one of the windows.
The summer breeze rolls in diluting the smoke. Alex leans over and tosses the cigarette out the open window. He stays there, leaning over and staring at the dark. Charles watches the night himself, waiting for Alex. Eventually, he talks, “I’m never going to control it,” Alex says, low and morose.
“You will, Alex. Today was just an off day.”
“My life is ‘just off’, Professor.”
Alex makes a dismissive gesture, as if to say he will continue to call Charles whatever he pleases.
Before another silence befalls them, Charles says, “It’s just about learning to focus, Alex, more than it—“
Alex barks a bitter laugh, “It’s a lost cause, Professor. I’m a lost cause.”
“I refuse to accept that,” Charles returns sharply.
Alex is unfazed, “Accept what you like. My limbs feel like lead and I really can’t be around you anymore. Matter of fact, I can barely stand myself these days. I should go to bed.”
“You need to have faith, Alex. You mustn’t be so pessimistic—“
“Charles,” Alex exclaims exasperatedly, voice rising, “This is not pessimism, this is realism. I’ve told you already told you how what I have been neglected from. I can barely have functioning relationships. I’m a fucking virgin, for fuck’s sake—I can never let my guard down around my fucking self. Do you know how much of a fucking toll that takes on a person?”
Alex realizes what he’s said only once Charles’ ears turn bright pink. Despite himself, Charles asks, “You’re a virgin?”
Ignoring him, Charles follows his morbid and mildly inappropriate curiosity. “As in you’ve never even…” and substitutes the remainder of his sentence with a crude hand gesture.
Alex’s cheeks flush red, mortified, “No! I mean, yeah, but. Oh, Christ. In solitary, it was fine, the plasma doesn’t hurt me.”
“With another person?”
The set of Alex’s brow furrows, suddenly stricken with grief and Charles receives an indistinct image—of blood stained palms and wild flames—screeching like electrical feedback. He withdraws, blocking any and all feeds from Alex.
Alex’s voice is barely audible after the high pitches of his memories, “No one else.”
“Can—Can you show me?”
“What?” Alex startles.
“I could help you,” Charles says, collecting himself rather quickly. ‘This could help your training, hurdling over an uncontrolled aspect of your mutation.”
Alex frowns, looking out the window again. Tentatively, he allows the block to slip and is met with Alex’s thoughts resumed to their usual rustle. They’re mostly inaudible but listening to the pattern, Charles realizes Alex is talking to himself. Alex is consciously conferring with himself, like an old friend, at a rapid fire speed. He’s weighing his options and thinking of scenarios with nothing but a flicker of gaze across the frosted glass.
Watching him, Charles forgets he’s waiting until Alex turns back to him with a new determination in his eyes, “Okay.”
They decide to move to the bunker to prevent as much property damage as they possibly can. The bunker lights cast a harsh glow on Alex’s face, shadows falling darkly under his eyes—and as he slides his briefs to mid thigh, under the cut of his hipbones. Charles’ mouth is dry as he watches Alex coax himself into fully hardness, jacket tossed into a heap in the corner. His bare arms and thighs are lined in fine blond hairs; the curls of his pubic hair not much darker.
It takes a bit longer than expected. Charles supposes it is because of the trepidation involved in performance anxiety. The usual pattern of thoughts turns into a trickle, most of which are obscenities and exclamations. Charles watches vigilantly for any and all physical changes.
The blush on Alex’s cheeks spreads down his neck and deepens past his bared throat and collarbones. His hand moves slowly at first, the pink head of his cock barely visible over his fist. Charles is mesmerized, watching the slow pulls and the precome spreading over Alex’ hand, his fingers glisten with it, and listening to breathy gasps Alex makes.
The noises bring him back to himself—remembering the first night Alex spent at the house, the warmth and gratitude—and becomes aware of his own erection, tenting the front of his trousers. Suddenly uncomfortable, Charles feels like he’s intruding on yet another of Alex’s private moments, until he notices the blush that has grown too deep and red on his chest, glowing through the fabric of his white shirt.
Alex barely notices it, lost in the rhythm as he rocks into his hand, the slapping sounds growing louder than the little breaths he’s puffing out. Charles steps forward, touching his arm, then hissing and retracting his hand quickly, singed by Alex’s skin. Alex snaps out of his rhythm, stilling his hand with a frown on his face. He casts Charles a look that speaks years of sexual frustration and Charles makes an obscure hand gesture.
Alex grants him permission and Charles slips into his mind seamlessly. He hits the ground running, rushing past controls, emotions, memories, and finds the energy of Alex’s mutation. He wraps himself around the core, concentrating on separating the mutation’s emotional sensors from sexual energy. Ripping through the boundaries clearly, he steps a foot out the door, hyperaware of Alex and everything that defines him in this moment: need. Not for an orgasm, but for relief.
Without true consciousness of it, Charles reaches his hand out and touches Alex’s arm, encouraged by the receding heat and the rhythm that has returned to his hips. His skin is feverishly hot, almost to the point of unbearable, but Charles can still touch him, gently skating over his arm. Alex leans into the contact and Charles glides his palm across his bicep before returning to his wrist where his hand is still working his cock.
He covers the hand with his own, slowing the strokes to pace the separation energy and Alex’s eyes fly open as Charles’ hand circles his length. Charles knew, somewhere in the dimness of his own thoughts he’s crossing a boundary, but Alex is so hungry, Charles can feel it, gripping and shaking his bones. Or Alex’s...
He’s not going to last much longer and Charles knows that, tightening his strokes with the rush of his mind’s superhighway. His free hand rucks up Alex’s shirt to touch his stomach, to touch his ribs and chest, just an inch away from painfully hot.
Alex watches him with full and curious eyes until the brush of bare skin over his waist becomes too much and he claps his hands over Charles’ shoulders and comes with a quiet, breathless gasp huffing over Charles’ cheeks. Charles strokes him through it, mind pressed against Alex’s, shoving desperately to separate the plasma and the orgasm. When both energies dissipate, he realizes his hand is hot with Alex’s come sliding between his fingers and he is breathing heavily into Charles’ neck, trying to bring him back to the ground by calling Charles’ name.
He removes his hands lets Alex lean on him for a minute, trying to collect himself. Alex offers his shirt for clean up, pulling it off to reveal a deep red flush beginning to subside. Charles cleans his hand rapidly as Alex tucks himself away and follows the hands that wipe gingerly at the come on his stomach.
Face flushed, Charles glances at him, unsure and awkward before bidding Alex goodnight.
He gets all the way to room—albeit, in a sprint—before he realizes his palms are burning from the heat of Alex’s skin.
The next morning, Charles scampers quietly through the house, heaving a sigh of relief to find the kitchen empty. Hank and Raven are standing at the counter, buttering bread a bit closer than necessary but the room is void of Alex and that is a success. He has not the smallest inkling of how to handle last night’s events.
Charles greets the other loudly and they snap apart. They make idle conversation as Charles buries himself in the fridge, searching for something sweet. Finding nothing that with appease him, he closes the refrigerator door and stands to find himself face to face with Alex. His mind is quieter than usual today.
He stiffens and feels the tips of his ears quickly tinge pink. Alex smiles wanly, “Morning,” he clears his throat and adds, “Charles.”
The sound of his name sounds strangely intimate after what they’ve done. He almost rescinds the invitation for familiarity but realizes that he’s being childish. At this point, they are past the first name basis. “Good morning, Alex. Sleep well?”
Alex walks towards him and Charles side steps rapidly as he breezes by. “I did. Thank you.”
The gratitude sounds polite but with Alex flexing his fingers around an apple he’s picked up, Charles feels the blush drop deep into his belly. Alex isn’t thanking him for being polite. Charles thinks of how hard he came last night, wanking desperately, in his room afterwards, with only heat and skin in mind.
“More training today?” Alex asks, eyes meeting Charles from across the room.
Charles glances at Hank and Raven, staring at each other as Raven mouths obscenely at a strawberry. His eyes revert to Alex, he is paced slowly today, almost languid, and beating out a bit louder than usual, like his thoughts are mimicking his heart beat. For that moment, Charles forgets how old Alex is, with such an adult expression, such adult expectations and eyes.
It all kicks off rather quickly. There is a surprising lack of discomfort between them. There is one moment, where Charles finds Alex in the study, a couple of days after the first night, and is met with a pensive silence. Alex is slouching in the leather chair with a cigarette between his fingers, chewing thoughtfully on his lower lip. There’s a book open in his lap, his feet propped on the desk before him but he’s staring out the open windows. The wind is rough tonight, rustling outside loudly. Charles watches the trees sway until Alex interrupts the silence.
“If we keep training like this, won’t your boyfriend rip my intestines out and use them to jump rope?”
Charles is baffled for a moment, caught off guard by almost every part of the question. “I beg your pardon?”
“Erik,” Alex provides helpfully, “Tall, German, King of Pain—“
“Yes, I know to whom you are referring, but why are you asking about him?”
“Well, in my experience—however little—other guys don’t usually like it when their boyfriend gets me off. Even in the name of the scientific method.”
“My…” Charles sighs begins again, “Alex. Erik is not my boyfriend. Nor has he ever been. Nor will he be at any point in the near future.”
Alex stands, tossing the book onto the chair he abandons. “Really? But you two are always gazing at each other from a distance and having mental conversations.”
Charles shifts again, uncomfortable. “Yes, well, be that as it may, we are not together.”
Alex stubs out his cigarette, frowning. “Why?”
“Alex,” Charles warns, but it sounds more like pleading.
“Alright, I’ll shut up.”
He stands and takes Charles by the wrist. They make their way to bunker in silence. Charles holds Alex against the wall; eyes squeezed shut as he tries to teach him to focus through haze of lust. Alex’s hand clap behind Charles’ neck and his breath is hitched against Charles’ jaw. His skin glows red hot until it burns Charles.
Their experiments continue with varying levels of success.
Charles is coming down from the attic, looking for a light bulb when he finds Alex, looking dazed as he wanders down the hall. “Alex?”
Alex jolts out of his trance and his face lights up with relief when he sees Charles. “Charles! Thank god! I got lost!” he laughs at himself and Charles feels the beginnings of a grin break on his own face. “How could you grow up here? This is like living on a small island!”
Charles laughs, “It’s not that bad.”
“I’ve been living here for weeks and I still get lost.”
“Where were you going? I shall escort you,” Charles bows elaborately.
Alex snorts, “How about to my room? I was thinking of changing and going for a run.”
“Of course, come this way.” Charles leads them down a hallway, pocketing his hands. Alex walks next to him and the corridor is plenty spacious but their shoulders brush effortlessly. “Where did you grow up, then?”
“A jail cell,” Alex returns breezily.
Charles frowns at him, “I meant before that.”
Alex gestures to his forehead, “Just look.”
“I’d prefer it if you told me.”
Alex casts him a look and Charles sighs, as if deeply put upon. “Fine.”
He chances a glance through Alex’s memories and picks up beaches, planes roaring overhead, a brown hair boy with a gap-toothed smile, rosy cheeks and the curl of a blanket over thin shoulders. He withdraws as they reach the top of a descending staircase. “Hawaii and Alaska? What is that like?”
Alex shrugs, “Pretty ordinary, really.”
Charles pulls Alex by the elbow in the correct direction of his room, before he heads down the wrong hall. “And your cousin? Scott?”
Alex ducks his head, bashfully “Scott. How to embody Scott? We had what some might call a give and take relationship. Some days, he got me in trouble, some days I got him in trouble,” he grins, adding, “Not much else to do in Anchorage,” as if it excuses their criminal records.
“Girls in bikinis? Beaches? There was always something to do,” Alex’s grin turns mischievous as they approach his hallway, “Ah, a familiar face,” he gestures to Erik and Raven approaching from the other end of the hallway.
“Charles, there you are. I found a light bulb in the pantry, we can change that light now,” Erik offers.
“Havok!” Raven claps her hands on his shoulders, happily. “Sean’s been looking for you. He said you guys were going for a run.”
“Yeah, I’ve just got to change,” he glances back at Charles, “I’ll see you later?”
Charles is already walking towards Erik and they both glances at him over their shoulders. Charles nods, “Later.”
Alex isn’t in the study when Charles gets there. He saunters in a few minutes later in a threadbare shirt and pajama bottoms. He watches Charles drink scotch on the rocks and sits on top of the desk. He dangles his legs a bit, watches Charles’ mouth curl into a contemplative frown. “How was chess with Erik?” Alex asks, conversationally.
“Fine,” Charles cuts back, drinking from the glass. Charles looks upset but considering the last conversation they had that involved Erik, Alex doesn’t think asking is a good idea.
“Do you want to go to the bunker?”
Alex shrugs, “If you want.”
“I don’t care.”
“Oh. Right, I don’t care either,” he stands and undoes the drawstring of his pajamas.
They slide past his knees and Charles leans against the opposite wall with the scotch in hand refilled. Charles tells himself it’s the expectancy of an orgasm that has Alex half-hard already but he doesn’t have a real answer for it. He watches Alex move into his fist, sighing softly with his boxers pushed down to his knees and his shirt rucked up. He looks distracted, focusing his energy. “Slower,” Charles advises with a slur on his lips.
Alex’s eyes flick up curiously but his movements keep their efficient pace. Charles moves up to him, ushering a thigh between Alex’s legs and setting the glass down behind him. He grabs Alex at his bare waist, cold fingers tracing his hipbones. His other hand wraps around Alex’s fist, stilling his rush. “Slower,” he repeats, the command clear in his voice.
Alex’s breath hitches, free hand closing around Charles’ shirt. “God, yeah.”
Usually, they wait until Alex’s glow gets too close to a blast before slowing down and refocusing. But Alex isn’t even riled up and he’s already moaning into Charles’ skin. Everything feels magnified by the intimacy of Charles coaxing him into the climb, not just controlling the fall, with his fingers closed dry on Alex’s dick.
Charles breezes into his mind and watches the sparks of lust fan into plasma before cutting them apart. Alex is getting good at this himself, but his skin is always a degree or two shy of too hot to bear. By the time the orgasm is reaching its crest, Charles is lost. All he can feel is the wrap of Alex’s mind, hot and writhing with fight. Alex himself has his face buried in Charles’ neck, his palm pawing frantically at Charles’ collarbone and his other arm hugging Charles’ shoulders.
Alex’s orgasm is strong, his mouth open in a loud groan as he spills into Charles’ hand. Charles rubs his back, soothingly as his breathing relaxes. Alex doesn’t wait, though, before he scrapes his fingernails down Charles’ chest, brushing past a hardened nipple. Charles’ hands still low on his back as Alex deftly undoes Charles’ belt and trousers.
“Alex,” he breathes in warning, but his voice is soft, pleading.
Alex brushes his mouth over Charles’ neck, fleetingly, “Come on, Charles. I know you want to come. It’s okay. I want you to.”
He wraps his long fingers around Charles’ dick and strokes the resistance out of him. A high blush appears on his cheeks and Charles wets his lips, hips jerking. Alex moves his hand slowly and tight, whispering encouragement into Charles’ earlobe and it only takes a bit for him to come with his hands tight on Alex’s hips.
Collected, Alex cleans up with a handkerchief he procures from his pocket and tucks them both away. With his head clear, Charles feels the guilt crawling up his throat. There’s not enough alcohol in his system for him to blame this on its influence. This was supposed to be about Alex and Charles’ has just crossed the very thin line he promised himself he wouldn’t.
“I’d better go to bed,” Alex says finally.
He extracts himself from Alex, stepping backwards until his back hits the wall. “I’ll—uh, night, yes, good night.”
“Good night,” he calls over his shoulder, eyes hidden and the door slams shut behind him louder than usual.
Charles spends a few minutes slouched in one of the leather chairs, collecting his breath and his shame. He berates himself for a good twenty minutes until his legs function properly again. He leaves the study and finds Erik leaning against the opposite wall. Upon seeing him, Erik’s mischievously amused expression drops into a scowl. No doubt, he expected someone else to walk out of that room. Before Charles can process the sudden pang of his thoughts, Erik marches away.
The next morning, Alex finds himself awake at an unusually early hour. He tosses and turns for a bit, but ultimately decides he’s not going to get anymore sleep. He heads out for a run in the dark and works up a sweat until he finds Raven sitting on a patch of grass, seemingly waiting for him. The sun is rising over the distance and it frames her in a warm glow. Her blond hair falls over her shoulders, gently tossing in the wind.
“What the hell is Hank’s problem?” he asks by way of greeting.
She frowns at him, “Leave Hank—“
“If I were him, I would be all over you,” he cuts her off, dropping next to her on the grass and reaching for the water bottle at her feet.
“Would you?” she flits into her blue skin, tone bitter and challenging.
Alex glances at her sideways, her ridged skin and slender thighs, smooth skin meeting intricate textures. He eyes the dip of her hips and the hollow of her shoulder blades before looking back to her face. Her eyes are almost blinding in the sunlight. “Yeah, I would.”
She clears her throat and returns to her blond form, looking away. “Thanks.”
“Either way, I doubt I’m the Xavier you want.”
Alex considers lying, drinking from the bottle to buy time, “So now you both read minds.”
Ravens stays quiet and because he’s watching the grass, is startled when she presses her chest against his back and hugs his waist, chin propped on his shoulder. “Uh, what?”
Raven’s sigh falls across his neck, “I know how hard it is to love Charles.”
“Who said anything about love?” he asks, turning to face her. She buries her nose in his shoulder and glances at him, loud spoken in her silence. Alex hates that he has no self-preservation when it comes to Charles and hates that it is so obvious. His shoulders droop and she tightens her hold on him. The sun glides higher into the sky and in response shades it a clear blue before he speaks again. “He’s into Erik.”
Raven sighs, resting her cheek on his shoulder and part of him can’t see past the fact she neither confirmed nor denied his claim, but the other part is struck with a sudden wave of nostalgia. He misses Scott. He misses having a family, being completely comfortable in one single space, with his mother and his father. He hopes they’re all alive and well but can’t seem to swallow the knot in his throat. It must’ve been nice for Charles to have such a loving sister.
“Have you eaten?”
Alex shakes his head.
“C’mon, I’ll make you breakfast and then you can give me a foot rub,” she rubs his shoulder gently before extracting herself, “I need to go grocery shopping later in town. If you come with me, I’ll let you hold my purse,” she stands and offers him a hand.
“Then can we braid each other’s hair?”
She runs her hand through his sweat-damp hair and makes an unpleasant face. “You’ll have to wash yours first.”
The laugh he gives her feels light in his chest.
Breakfast is a small affair; they take their plates into the living room to eat over the news. When they finish eating, Alex rubs gently at the soles of her feet and chews a toothpick. Sean and Hank wander around, casting them curious glances until Raven gets fed up with their comments, which is to say, as soon as Hank shows.
They part agreeing to meet in half an hour and head into town for the day. Freshly showered and changed, Alex heads out to meet Raven, actually short on time. The hot water always distracts him once he steps under it. Thinking of the spray down his back, easing the ache in his muscles, he runs into Charles, turning a corner, head butting him.
“Oh, fuck, sorry, are you alright?”
Charles rubs his forehead where he’s been hit, “I think so.”
“Here, let me see, it’s red,” Alex slaps his hand away and feels the spot himself, prodding gently and removing It when Charles hisses. “It’s a bit tender, it might get swollen, but you’ll live.”
Charles smiles, “Thank you, Dr. Summers.”
Alex grins shamelessly and suddenly the lump in his throat is back and Charles is gazing at him curiously. Memories of last night rush back, his name falling across the red of Charles’ mouth, the steady breaths in his chest shredded, Charles’ power in his mind. There he recognizes that is fear closing his airway. Motivated by his own cowardice, Alex tilts his chin down to close the air between them. On the last breath before their mouths meet, Charles pulls away, studying the ground.
“We, uh, we shouldn’t do--shouldn’t kiss.”
Alex tightens his jaw, stepping back, ashamed and embarrassed of his own childish attachments. “Right.”
“Alex, listen—“ Charles begins quietly.
He doesn’t need to hear this. “No, you’re right. I crossed the line. Not just now, either, but last night, too.” Charles looks up abruptly as if to say something but Alex tunnels on. “It’s okay, I know I made a mistake, and I admit to it. I’m not a child—“
“I don’t think you are—“
“We shouldn’t train anymore.”
Something twisted crosses Charles’ features and he closes his mouth, lips thinning. It looks like hurt but Alex doesn’t know and he doesn’t want to know. “If that’s what you want.”
Charles nods, “Right, I was only trying to help you.”
“I recognize that. I don’t need you to anymore.” He wrings his hands for a second before he thinks of how that must look and stuffs them into his pockets, instead. “I have to go now.”
“Right, go on.”
Alex leaves him standing in the hallway and he can feel Charles’ gaze between his shoulder blades but can’t bring himself to look back.
Charles wasn’t sure what to expect after that talk. Alex and he never set real rules before but he could not have expected that their extra time together meant more than training to Charles. Then again, after what had Charles done to discourage the idea after Alex brought him to completion the night before? He wasn’t expecting Alex to stop training with him but maybe he should have. He’s selfish for not thinking of it before hand.
Still, when they’re in the same room, there are no awkward glances or passive aggressive comments. There is nothing childish about his behavior. Even with Raven’s arm around his waist, his arm around her shoulders, Alex is as friendly as ever with hardly a resentful glint in his eye. He makes jokes with Sean during his training; he teases Hank as maliciously as ever. He steers clear of the third floor but he smiles at Charles like nothing is wrong. And his mind is as quiet as ever.
Erik hadn’t said anything Charles didn’t already know--he’s young, impressionable, what are you doing?--but Erik’s voice is louder than anyone else’s voice. It never leaves him be, beating at the back of his head like the thump of a heart beneath the floorboards.
Sitting in the library that night, less than ten hours after their conversation, Charles decides he hates it. He spent the entire day busy and going back and forth all day—with Erik’s cynicism bleeding at the back of his mind every time he thought of Alex—was exhausting. He runs the house, plans with Hank, discusses the concept of beauty with Raven, fights with Erik, and trains Sean but at the end of the day, there is no more Alex.
He cancels his nightly chess game and heads to the library. He wasn’t actually expecting to find anyone inside but his stomach clenches when he finds it empty anyway. It doesn’t even smell like Alex’s cigarettes anymore, just leather and old books.
It’s too quiet and he sits at his father’s desk, thumbing through a book in Spanish. He goes through six books before he gives up pretending he’s not just stalling for time—for Alex—and he heads to bed.
Charles slips under the blankets but can’t sleep for a while, too cold to be comfortable, and he thinks he deserves this.
For breakfast, Charles eats oatmeal with Erik, ignoring the undercurrent of inquiry about Alex that Erik is trying to hide. He’s exhausted and the oatmeal actually isn’t all that great but he can’t seem to put it down. Alex enters and Charles watches him smile and stretch groggily but knows none of those smiles are for him.
He can't remember when it started burning the back of his throat so much.
Left without much to do, Charles heads to the library with Erik to make up for the missed chess game. Alex wanders in halfway through the game, Raven beckoning him to the couch with a book. Charles tries to ignore the way he cuddles with Raven, throwing an arm over her shoulders. She settles against him as he opens up to his page.
Charles tries to watch the game but fails for the most part, despite Erik murmuring taunts to him over the board. He can’t stand listening to Alex’ thoughts as they rush by but never reaching out touch them. He wonders if he and Alex will ever be the same again—what they were before their training sessions began—but rapidly dismisses it. Maybe it was having a taste of him that changed it but Charles can’t stand the idea of sharing a book on religious theory without sprawling in his lap and kissing his neck, his chest, threading his fingers in Alex’s hair and inhaling that peppermint smell. He can’t stand the idea of never following those thoughts, never having that peace, that privacy.
Charles. Stop staring at him, Raven’s voice rings clear in his mind. Charles glances at her to frown at how Alex’s fingers are drifting down her arm, an absent minded caress.
You two are getting on famously these days, Charles moves a pawn, for show.
We’re friends, Charles. Didn’t you notice that you and Darwin were the only people he talked to?
Before him, Erik chirps, “Check.”
Charles frowns at the board, removing his king from further damage belatedly. He returns his attention to Raven when he hears the thrum of Alex’s mind sharpen and grow louder and inelegant, like untuned violins. Charles glances up to find him staring off into the distance with the book open in his lap, forgotten. His caresses to Raven’s arm have stilled and Charles watches until Erik interjects again, “Check.”
Charles moves his king out again and startles when he glances up again to find Alex glaring at him. Then the violins come to a screeching halt, and all that is left is the usual pitter-patter of rain. Doesn’t it bother you?
Charles’ brow furrows, Beg pardon?
Doesn’t it tire you out? Do we stop when you’re away? How powerful are you? How many of us are there?
Charles frowns at the board, not because Erik has just toppled his king, but because he doesn’t understand what Alex is asking with his eyes so wide. Alex, calm down, I don’t understand.
Can’t you calm me down? Can’t you just make me in your image?
Alex, I don’t do that and you know it. Please, calm down, what is the matter?
The book he was holding falls out of his hands and to the floor with a thud. Despite Raven’s wary glances he keeps his gaze leveled at Charles, furious and Charles can only watch him. You lectured me about freedom but what is free when you are inside my mind? How am I an individual if you can come and go from my mind as you please?
Charles, what are you doing?, Raven and Erik demand in unison.
You said you didn’t mind. Charles tries to keep the ache from the words. He didn’t expect a lot of things from Alex but this didn’t even cross his mind.
I’ve changed my mind, Alex hisses, standing, “Or maybe you did it for me,” he prompts and storms out.
Ignoring Erik and Raven, Charles stands and picks up the book Alex was reading. He only needs to read the title, Discourse on the Method, before running after him. He catches Alex in the hallways grabbing his wrist to turn him around. “Alex, wait.”
“What for?” he snaps, pulling his wrist out of Charles’ grasp.
“Tell me—tell me what happened.” Charles knows what happened, he’s read the book but he needs Alex to organize this for himself. “Talk to me.”
Alex sets his jaw but begins anyway. “Descartes said ‘I think, therefore I am’, my existence is proven by my mind. All my thoughts feed back to you, whether I want them to or not. You define my existence. With you, I am not an individual; I am whatever you want me to be.”
“Yes, but that’s what—“
“Everything we are, you are, too. Does that make you a thief, trifling through what doesn’t belong to you? Or does that make you a celestial being? Are we real? Are you real? Or will you cease to exist if no one has faith in you? After that last war, I doubt any people have faith in anyone, let alone a thief.”
“But, Alex, you can’t think—“ Charles bites his tongue on his own word choice, scrambling to calm the panic.
His eyes darken, “Can’t I? How many of us are there? Have you created the world at your will or only two or three select beings? That makes us your playthings, doesn’t it?”
“Make me” he mocks.
“No,” Charles spits back, startling Alex into silence with demand in his voice. “You read the philosophy. Descartes said you prove your own existence even in doubt. Especially in doubt!” he exclaims, he can feel the blood rushing at the back of his head, like the start of a migraine, “I don’t control you, nor would I ever treat you as something to be controlled. I am not God, Alex, and you are not my plaything.”
A frown creases his lips, the whirring of his thoughts starting up again. Collecting his breath and willing himself to calm down, Charles can hear the echoes of Raven and Erik arguing in the library. Alex is hesitant, working through something himself before he speaks. When he does, his voice is hesitant but much calmer. “Right, wait, no. Okay, no. I prove my existence to me, I challenge, I exist, I am individual, but what proves my existence to you?”
“What?” It’s been a long time since Charles has allowed himself to wonder this.
“I know I exist. But do you? Kids have imaginary friends all the time, but you have so much power, how well do you know your own abilities?” His eyes flicker across Charles’ face, but he keeps talking. “How do you know I’m not a manifestation of your subconscious? How do you know you aren’t projecting all the images for yourself?”
Charles thinks of his first three weeks with Raven, convinced she was nothing but a hallucination and he was, in all actuality, insane. She used to snuggle with him during thunderstorm, fearing the flash of lightning and it seemed almost hysterical.
“I don’t, I suppose,” he admits, “I have to trust that you are.”
All the fight seems to dissipate and his thoughts return to their usual vibration, laced with an edge of understanding. Charles watches him frown, the hallway empty and Raven berating Erik about something unintelligible in the library. His eyes are dark from the backlighting but Charles can hear what is behind them and it’s always so calm, even though chances are Alex understands because he’s had hallucinations of his own. All that time in solitary confinement.
He isn’t exactly sure why—maybe it’s that there too many people invested in this when it used to be just him and Alex burning alone in the bunker, maybe it’s the way his mind works, intricately mature, yet somehow still developing. It might be the way he’s given Charles a glance at the core of raw power, or the way Alex has burned him--but he can’t help himself but to lean forward and kiss Alex’s mouth.
It’s over before Alex realizes it, just a fleeting, hesitant touch. When he opens his eyes, Alex is watching him and all the anger is back, revived like fire and stronger than Alex’s confusion earlier. “I thought you said I wasn’t your plaything.”
“You’re not,” Charles insists quickly.
“Then what are you doing?”
“I missed you,” he confesses to them both.
Alex’s face darkens, “I told you I don’t want to keep doing our so-called training arrangement—”
“No, no, this isn’t like that. I don’t want that either, that’s not what I meant by—”
“For fuck’s sake, Charles—“
“I want you, Alex,” Charles closes his hands at Alex’s wrists to keep him in place. “I want to be with you, as in exclusively. I want to relax in the study with you and read all those terrible volumes and smoke. I want to sleep next to you and smell your--your hair smells like peppermint, did you know? Where are you getting this peppermint shampoo?—and just be with you. I want all of it. I even want Raven’s snappy and inappropriate comments about us. I mean, can we just. Can we—together? Can we be just us?”
Alex’s eyebrows raise into his hairline like he’s unimpressed but his pulse is racing wildly under Charles’ thumb. Instead of letting him try to find a hole in Charles’ desperation, Charles opens his mind to let all the Maybes tumble into Alex. His eyes widen and the whispers of their minds brushing collect against each other like low cello chords. As the music subsides, Alex kisses him, just as hesitant and chaste as Charles was before.
Blood roaring in his ears, Charles leaves his wrist to grasp his hip and pull him in. The other claps at the back of his skull, as Charles licks gently inside his mouth, touching the ridges of his teeth. Alex’s lips part instantly, hands closed at Charles side, wrinkling his dress shirt. A second and third kiss skate by, ushered in between warm reception and their panting breaths. Charles can feel the blood at the back of his neck when Alex blushes and finds it merciful that the blush is for him.
When they break apart, Alex’s hand closes around Charles’ wrist and he leads him out of the hallway, up the staircase, to his room.
Alex wakes up sometime later to impatient rapping at his door. He extricates himself from the bed and pulls a pair of jeans on the floor up to his waist before hastily buttoning them. He opens the door to find Raven, grinning beatifically at him, and squints in the assault of light from the hallway. Her laughter is deep and loud, “Look at you!” she pinches his chest where bruises have already formed.
Too groggy to be properly awake, Alex scowls at her and pushes her back so he can step into the hallway and close the door behind him. “Whaddya want?” he murmurs, rubbing sleep from his eyes.
“Well, I came to see if you were hungry so we could make dinner but it looks like you already ate. Or he ate you, Jesus, those actually look painful,” she muses, prodding his chest with her index finger.
Alex gives her a sleepy smile and yawns.
“So did you two work out all your issues?”
“More or less,” Alex shrugs then pauses, rethinking his answer, “Less.”
“Well, did you two talk about Erik?”
“No, we just talked about us, I guess. Sort of.”
Raven frowns, crossing her arms over her chest. “That’s not...”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Should I leave you to it then?”
“No, no, it’s not the kind of conversation I want to be having right now. I’ll meet you in the kitchen,” he yawns again, “in, like, ten minutes. We’ll make pasta or something.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’m fucking starving.”
Raven nods dismissively and heads back down the hallway, towards the kitchen. Alex heads back inside the room. He relaxes in the contained warmth inside and slips back into bed, curling up against Charles and kissing his bare shoulder. “Mmm,” he murmurs sleepily, “Who was at the door?”
“Your sister and her inappropriate comments.”
“I’m sorry I missed that,” Charles mumbles.
Alex kisses the shell of his ear, “Are you still sleepy?”
“Mhmm,” Charles hums, “Sleep forever.”
“Well, I’m going to make dinner, okay?”
Charles grunts his disapproval but doesn’t reach out for Alex when he stands. Alex changes but doesn’t leave until he sees Charles has fallen back to sleep.
In the kitchen, Raven is already heating the water when he gets there. He helps her make the sauce and prepare the meat but mostly his job consists of taking orders and changing the radio station when Raven is bored of the current one. After the fourth time of flipping through all the stations with no avail, Alex just turns the radio off instead. “We’ll just talk.”
“About what? You’re not that interesting,” she chides playfully.
Alex has a secondary motive, though. “Did I hear you fighting with Magneto earlier?”
Raven shrugs, “Something like that.”
“What happened?” Alex asks.
“What would you do if I left?” Raven asks suddenly, spinning around to face him. She drops her schoolgirl form and glares at Alex challengingly.
“What? Where are you going?”
“I’m not saying I will, I’m asking what would happen if I did? I mean, if.”
“Does this have to do with the fight you had with Magneto?”
“Not really. I mean,” she makes a obscure hand gesture that tells Alex nothing, “I’ve been thinking, but. That’s not the point. What would you do if I left?”
“Uh, I, I mean, it doesn’t matter what I think. Is leaving what you want?”
Raven’s gaze drifts to the window, eyes glassy. “I don’t know. I don’t want to leave you but I don’t think there’s another way. I mean, I can’t stay here, Alex. Nothing is--but I’m not happy here. I don’t understand, I don’t know why but I can’t. I mean, Alex, I’m just not this person--”
“Hey, hey, Raven,” Alex closes his arms around her shoulder, caging her in a tight hug, more for his own comfort than for hers. “It’s okay, I’m not going to stop you. I’m not going to stop you. I’m not going to stop you,” he chants in the race of his heart beat.
She breathes deeply against him, rattling her shoulders in a shudder. After a pause, her breath steadies against his chest, calming both of them down. “I’ll miss you. I won’t stop you.”
“Will you hate me?”
“Of course not, I couldn’t,” he says, hugging her closer.
Alex almost doesn’t hear her, the words whispered into the fabric of his shirt. But when they register, he retracts, watching her eyes flick between him and the ground as he grips her shoulders.“No. No, never, he would never.”
Her hands fist the front of his shirt, and she breathes deeply before her eyes turn back to him and in them is something far fiercer than Alex has ever seen. “What will you do if I leave?”
Alex watches her face harden and the frown slip away into a thin, expectant line. It’s almost startling--they’ve only been close friends for two or three days but it feels natural and long-standing--that he knows exactly what she wants him to say. The words practically form of their volition, “I’ll take care of Charles and Sean and Hank. I’ll take care of the house.”
There’s a glint of approval in her eyes but she can respond, Sean appears as if called by the sound of his name. He’s smiling from the doorway and Raven slips back into her blond figure, “Are you guys making food?”
The moment is over but Alex can feel that Raven is one step closer to being at peace with herself and he can’t hold that against her.
When he wakes up alone, Charles heads out of Alex’s room after a quick collection of his clothes in the dark. He makes it back to his room for a quick shower and locates everyone mentally. It’s late evening and most of the house is asleep. Erik is in the library, reading and Alex is in their study, but everyone else is down for the night. Charles dresses for bed but heads for the study.
Alex is sitting on the desk, legs dangling over the edge, kicking back and forth absently. He straightens when Charles enters, smiling softly. “You’re up.”
“I am,” Charles smirks, “You feeling well?”
Alex shrugs, “Fine. I’m just not a daytime sleeper. You missed dinner. There should be some leftovers though, if you’re hungry.”
Charles stands at his knees, closing his hands on Alex’s where they grip the desk. “I’m alright.”
Alex flips his right hand up to twine their fingers, “We should probably talk, though, huh?”
“I said my piece,” Charles begins, spreading Alex’s knees with his hips to stand closer. “I don’t mean to take any of it back” he uses his free hand to guide Alex into a kiss. It’s simple but full of promise and Alex doesn’t fight it but he still has the frown creasing his forehead. Charles kisses him again, helpless against Alex’s pouty mouth.
“What about Erik?” Alex asks when they part.
Charles sighs, figuring he should have seen this coming. Of course his unhealthy relationship with Erik would hinder his attempts at a healthy relationship with Alex. “I’ve said this once and I will continue to say it. Erik is not and will never be my boyfriend. When I said I wanted us to be exclusive, I meant exclusive.”
“That doesn’t mean you don’t want…” he lets the last word go unspoken, releasing Charles’ hand and staring at where his knees bracket Charles’ hips.
An ache cuts through Charles’ body, furious with himself and Erik and Alex and everyone, for having their hand in this. He’s furious for everything that he missed, for avoiding the problem, for everything that puts that frown on Alex’s face. He tips Alex’s chin up slowly, and the angry blush across his cheeks is maddening. “I do not. I do not want that. Or him. Don’t, ever, think that. Okay? Have you got that?”
Alex chews his lip, nodding, but his eyes swoop away. Charles kisses him again, holding Alex against him so their chests are thudding against each other. This kiss lasts longer than the others but is no dirtier or heavier, however, just the gentle brush of lips and light tongue strokes, somehow conveying affection and patience.
Winded, they catch their breaths for a second, Charles breathing hot down Alex’s shirt, nipping gently at his collarbone where his shirt begins. Alex can feel his blood begin to stir as Charles sucks bruises into the patches of skin he can reach. He slides his hands around Charles waist, past the curve of his ass to grip possessively and tug him closer. Charles moans quietly into his mouth and assists Alex in the undoing of his pajama bottoms’ drawstring. Before he lets them fall to the floor, he retrieves a small lube bottle from his pocket.
Alex smirks lightly, “Wow, I think I should be offended,” he says, removing Charles’ boxers as well.
Charles shrugs, “I like to be prepared.”
Alex lifts off the desk helpfully as Charles wrestles down his pants and pajama bottoms in one go. Kicking them off, he lies back, warming the wood underneath him with the quick flash of fever he gets when Xavier leans over the desk to kiss his thighs. Charles rubs his cheeks at Alex’s hipbones, breathing heavily on his growing erection before mercilessly closing his mouth around Alex’s cock. He laps dutifully at the underside and suckles the crown with obscene noises.
The desk isn’t very large, Alex’s head rests on it just enough to be bearable but his thighs are comfortable, the edge of the desk meeting the back of his knees. Alex can hear it but hardly registers it when the lube cap snaps. Working carefully on Alex’s cock, Charles’ hands appear inside his thighs, coating them in lube and warming the liquid with small circle patterns. Alex‘s breath is hitching, his back lifting off the desk in anticipation, “Come here,” he murmurs anxiously.
Charles rucks up his shirt as he goes, exposing a lean belly and the beginnings of a thin sheen of sweat. He licks gently at Alex’s navel, blowing cool air over it before hiking a knee up on the desk. He settles himself over Alex, careful of his weight and meeting his mouth in a heated kiss, far more desperate than before and their teeth clack.
When the kiss ends, Alex pulls both of their shirts off and tosses them away then pulls Charles down over him for full body contact. He clenches his thighs and takes Charles’s half-hard dick, guiding him between his thighs where he is slick with lube.
The first few thrusts are experimental, Charles rocking down to figure the best position for the both of them. Once Charles builds a rhythm with his dick between the heat of Alex’s body, he takes Alex in hand and works him in time. He grinds between his thighs, shuddering helplessly when Alex relaxes and clenches his muscles. His hand around Alex’s dick is calm, carefully steady as to not upset Alex’s focus.
The plasma is building steadily, angry red and white, shoving to burst out of Alex but he keeps his mind clear, focusing on the energy of the orgasm, the slide of Charles between his legs, his weight above him, the warmth of his mouth and his hands, the heavy oak desk underneath him. He’s gathered a considerable amount of skill in meditation and ever since having the secondary training sessions with Charles, he’s grown far more self-aware. Of course, there have been moments where he slips and almost kills them but Charles never strays far from his mind.
The wood creaks gently as Charles grinds between his thighs, the exquisite slide brushing against his balls and his body with unbearable warmth. Charles gasps his name, rocking down and biting his lips when Alex clenches around him.
Alex doesn’t hold out for long, this much concentration is exhausting, and that’s something to improve on but they’re not quite there yet. He comes with a shudder, the violent energy somehow the farthest thing from this white wash of power and pleasure. Poised in bliss, he sucks Charles’ fingers into his mouth, lapping at them hotly and flexing his muscles around Charles until his hips stutter and he slumps against Alex with come pooling between his legs and their chests, dripping onto the desk.
Coming off the high, Charles kisses him with the same patience and ease that began this unbidden moment in the study and murmurs praise into his mouth. Alex kisses back until his breath Is gone and the word, “Exclusive,” drifts between them in a whisper.
They wake up some time the next day, stacked awkwardly against each other in Charles’ room with the blinds open and the sun glaring in. Alex stands rapidly and shuts them before sliding back into bed and Charles hugging his chest from behind. He feels the phantom press of a kiss at the nape of his neck and settles back. The next time they wake up, he migrates back towards Charles and presses himself against Charles’ back. He shivers when he finds Charles’ skin cool to the touch, but he stays anyway and sleep comes easily.
President Kennedy’s address shakes Alex out of his reverie. He pads around the house afterwards with Raven’s nails digging into the inside of his palm. Erik and Charles disappeared after the announcement, seemingly having made up in the name of more important issues. Hank has locked himself in his lab and Sean goes out to practice his flying. Somewhere near her floor, they part and Alex watches the slope of her back as she walks away.
He showers, standing under the wash of heat and breathes erratically against the tile. The water is running loudly, pattering at his back and down his throat, limitless and warm, but he hears it as soon as Charles enters the room. He listens to him bang around the room for a bit before he turns the water off. Charles feels equally good against his skin.
With a towel wrapped loosely at his hips, he heads into the room to find Charles aggressively opening mail with a letter opener. “Xavier?” he asks gently.
Alex isn’t sure where he picked up the name but it seems fitting at this point in their relationship. No one else calls him Xavier and it feels specific to Alex alone, something only available to him. Charles wilts at the sound of it, dropping the mail and the blade on the counter. He turns to face Alex and his scowl disappears completely.
“Well, well, well, is all this for me?” he asks coyly, lightly tracing the line of Alex’s hipbone that appears where the towel ends.
Alex scoffs, “Not with that corny line. What’s the matter?”
Charles sighs, pulling on the towel to release it and drape it over Alex’s shoulders. He doesn’t look at Alex, though, and with the President’s speech, Alex should be expecting this. “Is it Erik?”
Charles eyes flash angrily, “He is not the center of the goddamn universe, Alex. Not all my problems stems from him.”
Undeterred by his outburst, Alex says, “But this one is.”
The anger is gone again and Charles opens his mouth speak but decides against it sighs. Alex towel-dries his hair and crosses to the dresser for some clothes. He’s facing away from Charles when he feels him hugging his waist. Alex doesn’t relax but doesn’t push him away. “Let’s get out of here, yeah?”
“It’s late already, where do you want to go?”
Charles shrugs, “Just for a drive. Please?”
“What about everyone else?”
“No,” he says, nosing at the shell of Alex’s ear, “just you and me. Just for a small while. C’mon, say yes.”
Alex can’t help the grin that splits his face when Charles drives out of the garage in a Grand Pontiac Prix. Charles leans out of the driver’s side window and shrugs, “I’ve been known to make spectacular decisions during Spring Break.”
“This car just came out this year, Charles.”
“Tuesdays also warrant spectacular decisions.”
Alex laughs and slides into the passenger seat. The car is impressive, he must admit, and Charles is surprisingly loose in the handling of it. He tears through the grounds and out onto the road, hitting 80 and 90, the gravel rising in dust clouds behind them. His turns are sloppy and burn the tire rubber with delighted screeches.
They’re silent, though, the wind whipping past them and silent elation burned inside their throats. Charles takes them in no direction, past the satellites, through empty fields and endless country roads. Alex keeps his hand on the inside of Charles’ knee and breathes cold air. At the end of a particular field, he relaxes against his seat and winds the car down to a normal speed before parking at the edge of a desolate road.
They scramble out of the car and spread themselves on the hood, curdled together against the night chill. Charles turns into his neck, kissing his jaw and his chin before kissing his lips.
Alex hasn’t forgotten about the night’s earlier events and when the kissing stops, he fingers the small hairs at the base of Charles’ skull, “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Not particularly,” Charles sighs, turning back to the night sky. Before Alex can encourage him, though, Charles says, “He’s just so adamant that he’s right. He’s so adamant that he’s doing the right thing and it’s alarming. What am I supposed to do? We sleep just a hallway away from each other. But, obviously, he hasn’t killed us, because I am trying to help him take care of Shaw, but what happens after that? What use is left of me? Sometimes, I swear, Alex, I know he won’t allow whatever relationship we sort-of have stand in his way. He won’t let me stand in the way. It’s all a game to him; it’s all a giant fucking chess board.”
“Do you know what Shaw did to him to make him so angry?”
Charles glances at him then turns back to the sky. “Yes. I know what he did,” then shakes his head, “But it’s not my place to tell. You wouldn’t want to hear it.”
Alex nods, “I know, it’s alright. But what about tomorrow? What is going to happen tomorrow?”
“I don’t know. He might leave. I can’t talk any sense into him. He’ll probably go back to hunting Nazis or whatever he did before that. That’s if we stop nuclear war from erupting," he sighs heavily. "I just--I don’t know.”
Alex is silent, listening to the sounds of night and Charles’ breathing. He can’t bring himself to say anything so he clings to Charles and breathes inside his hollow mouth, willing tomorrow to pass and the world to stop crashing.
They return to the mansion sometime near midnight with beatific smiles and scuffed jeans. They step out of the car and meet near the hood, arms twined carelessly over expanses of chest and the small of Charles’ back. They sit on the hood of the car and drink out of paper cups from a restaurant. Alex laughs, wild and open and his gaze flickers to the house.
The light in Erik’s room is off but Erik is holding open the curtain, watching.
Charles places wet kisses on Alex’s lips, licking at his lips to prod them open. “Y’know,” he says between kisses, “I always— wondered why—your breath smells like—mmm---vanilla.”
Alex snickers with a hand on Charles’ chest to talk in full sentences. “I love their milkshakes. I go there all the time, I figured you’d have picked that up already.
Charles grunts noncommittally, “I don’t pick everything up. It’s not my business unless you tell me it is. Like, that scar on your back, right below your shoulder blade? That is a very nice scar but I have no idea how you got it,” he smiles, “and that’s fine.”
“That’s a really funny story, actually. This one time, Scott and I were bored, right?” he smiles as Charles’ eyebrows climb into his hairline, “and so we stole a jet-ski from this jet-ski rental place, but there was a riptide current that day and” Alex laughs wholeheartedly at the look of complete disapproval on Charles’ face. “Y’know, I’ll tell you that story some other time.”
Instead he grabs Charles by the lapels of his jacket, kissing him until their teeth clack and Alex catches his lower lip in a gently bite. “Xavier,” he says in sing-song, “We’ve got an audience.”
Charles sighs but doesn’t turn to see who it is. “We should go inside.”
“And deny him the show?” Alex shimmies against him, “I don’t think so.”
“Hey,” Charles says, tipping his chin back to catch his gaze. “He doesn’t get to have this. He doesn’t get to see you like this.”
“I was joking,” Alex rolls his eyes.
“I know, but, I like this. I like having you all to myself. I don’t owe him anything.” It surprises both of them how easily the words follow each other. “Let’s go inside so it can be just you and just me and forget him. Please.”
Alex glances at the window and nods back at Charles and they slip into Alex’s room, with the door locked and the room warm, and fall asleep against each other without the curtains and without the audiences.
Charles is waking up when he hears Alex. There room is silent, the bed is cold beside him and Alex is up already, sighing in trepidation. Charles isn’t even properly awake; sleep comes easier these days, with Alex’s ribs flat against his own when they lie in bed together. Alex is leaning against the window with the blinds open just enough for dawn to break through the room.
He’s in deep thought; Charles can hear the buzzing, the humming, patters of rain, gravel scratching, and the scrape of teeth against a ripe apple. He watches him for a moment, all the hardened lines of his face and the muscles. Charles forgets how young Alex is. Charles forgets how old Alex is.
They're flying out to Cuba today and will be expected to be up soon but it’s barely dawn yet.
“Alex,” he calls and Alex turns to him, smiling wanly. Charles opens the blankets to invite him, “come back to bed. We still have time.”