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Apples and Ink

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In defense of our persons and properties under actual violation, we took up arms. When that violence shall be removed, when hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors, hostilities shall cease on our part also.

Thomas Jefferson.

 

 

He drifts, vague, caught weightless in the undertow of a great ocean. There’s a taste in his mouth not unlike apples.

Awareness comes slowly, reluctantly. Soft cotton sheets beneath his chest and cheek, where he lays on his stomach on a large bed, limbs spread and loose. It feels alien and odd, to be this open, his back to the room, spine exposed. A tingle of unease wants to worm it way cold down his spine, but a swell of calm drowns it.

Apples on his tongue and ink on his nose. And the sheets.

Ah.

“I thought I was going to die,” he says, voice rough like gravel. His throat is as raw as though it’s been rubbed with sandpaper. It aches. Speaking hurts. So does, on second though, breathing. Existing. But then, existing has always hurt for Erik. This isn’t news.

The bed shifts under Erik, weight settling at his side, by his ribs.

“You did, there, for a moment.” Charles’ voice is calm. The hand that alights, feather-soft, on his arm, is steady and warm. The fingers flex, and Erik obeys before his mind can catch up; struggles up onto an elbow, groggily drags his heavy head up and glances at the glass of water Charles is offering.

“I’m not alright,” Erik’s mouth says, and Erik jerks away, shocked at himself.

“I know, darling,” Charles murmurs, and makes no further attempt to touch him. “Please drink some water. It’ll feel good.”

Erik takes a long, painful moment to fumble weakly on the bed until he can sit, and admitting a measure of defeat leans back against the headboard. Moving around this much has him panting and shaking. He is most definitely not alright. He tries to take the glass and hates the way his fingers fail to support its weight. Wordless, Charles helps him drink.

“What happened?”

“You were hit by lightning,” Charles sighs, settling the half-empty glass on the nearby bedside table. Erik looks around. This is obviously Charles’ school, and it’s also obviously not his bedroom. There’s a knife-edge thin sliver of rage at that—if he is to be here, it should be on Charles’ bed.

Erik frowns. “Thor?”

“You had it coming, in his defense.”

“I had it coming?” Erik sneers.

“You called him brainless muscle slab,” Charles says mildly.

“That’s what he is.”

“A brainless muscle slab of a god of thunder, dear.”

Erik wants to tell him don’t call me that and wants to say I want to leave, and he does want to leave, mostly. He also desperately wants to stay. Torn apart as always, then. Some things will never change.

“What happened to the others?”

“Your Brotherhood is here with you, convinced that if I were to be left to my own devices, I would in no time have you either bent over a desk or preaching world peace.” He pauses. “I don’t know if I should be flattered or insulted.”

“I’m guessing those weren’t the exact words,” Erik says, and finds himself too tired to fight off the involuntarily curling of his lips.

“You would guess wrong,” Charles grins, impish and light.

Erik is smiling, and oh. That hasn’t happened in a while, has it. “Raven?”

Charles’ face closes down like a lock on a vault.

“Azazel,” he correct, and his voice is just as calm, just as light, but his eyes have gone from clear-sky blue to ice-slab blue. Damn it.

“So I died,” Erik tries for conversation, and on second thought, huh. That might not be the best conversational starter. Charles grimaces.

“Only for about three seconds. Logan revived you.”

“He what?”

“He claims it was a momentary lapse in judgment.”

Erik eyes him, unconvinced. Charles exhales a long, exasperated sigh.

“No, I did not remotely possess Logan’s body and used it to give you mouth-to-mouth respiration. Hilariously powerful as you believe me to be, my gift does indeed have limits, and several hundred miles of distance go under that list.”

“What about Cerebro?” Erik demands.

“What about Cerebro?” Charles parrots, lips pursed.

“You’re insufferable.”

“And you, my friend, stink,” Charles retorts, eyes sharp with dry amusement. “Up, up. You need a shower and I have to spot you.”

“I’m a sick man. You shouldn’t be trying to get an eyeful,” Erik grumbles, and weakly struggles to get the covers off his legs to stand, wobbly, by the bed.

“I’m certain your flaccid cock is a thing of beauty, don’t get me wrong. But I really am invested in you not splitting your skull open in my guest bathroom. Although on further thought, wouldn’t that be a clean resolution to all of our problems.”

“That would be a really ignominious death.”

“Fancy words, darling, I’m so proud.”

“And I doubt I’m ‘all of your problems,’” Erik adds, giving Charles a dirty look but not shrugging away from the way the man grabs his elbow to help steady him. Erik feels as weak and ungainly as a newborn foal. Too many knees and elbows, too little balance. He looks down at himself as sees the long line of burned and blistered skin, all along the right side of his chest and hip, snaking like jagged fractures, broken and uneven, over his flat stomach and down his thigh. Thor really has done a number on him. It’s a miracle he’s even alive, let alone standing.

One of Charles’ lambs must have the ability to heal, though if they do, it is either limited or Charles gains some satisfaction of allowing some other wounds to remain on Erik. As soon as the thought arises it dies. Charles would not wish any sort of pain on anyone, never has and never will, not even after three years spent on a wheelchair and miles and miles of hurt and betrayal between them.

“Well, I do have a mansion full of teenagers,” Charles concedes.

“And Scott,” Erik add snidely.

Charles rolls his eyes and tugs him in the direction of the bathroom. He doesn’t even spare a glance to Erik’s body, even though he’s only wearing underwear, and considering that Charles is a bisexual man, unashamed, unapologetic, and usually completely incapable of subtlety, that’s just—insulting. Erik knows what he looks like. No one’s ever complained.

Erik is also feeling light-headed, damn it.

“Maybe you should sit,” Charles’ brows crinkle close together. “You look like a reanimated corpse.”

Thank you.”

“You’re lucky to be alive, Erik,” Charles says, and his voice has lost all amusement. “If not for the fact Thor didn’t have lethal intent, and that you have some measure of control over electricity yourself, you’d be in a grave right now.”

He pauses.

“I don’t find nearly-dead men attractive,” he adds, matter-of-fact. “But since you’re very loudly wondering, yes, you are a very beautiful man, and were circumstances different, I would certainly be flirting.”

“Thor is a menace,” Erik says, because he can’t think of the other thing Charles just said without wanting to—something. Something filthy. There is something listing sideways inside himself, around the area of his chest, like a structure crumbling. Charles helps him sit on the lid-down toilet seat, and when he straightens again Erik finds himself clinging to his right wrist. Charles stands over him then, between the spread vee of his thighs, eyes soft like brushed velvet.

“He wouldn’t be to you, if you weren’t a terrorist.”

Erik lets go of his wrist.

“That’s a heavy word,” he says hollowly, as Charles moves away to get the shower started. He misses, instantly, the way Charles had stood between his legs, misses his nearness. Misses—him. Everything. Charles. Charles is calm and apples and—ah.

“You helped me sleep,” he says, thinking of the vast calm ocean he was drifting in.

“You were having nightmares,” Charles answers, and turns back to lean his hip against the sink, crossing his arms and his ankles. “It set my teeth on edge.”

Erik scowled. “I’m so sorry my nightmares make you uncomfortable.”

Charles hums, and a corner of his full, lovely mouth turned up.

“You frown too much. You’ll get wrinkles. And then what will you do, without your pretty face? You’ll have to rely on your charming personality.”

Erik sighs and leans carefully back against the wall. Charles has closed the door, and steam begins to curl, hot and humid, in the room. Charles’ eyes dip down to the floor, a contemplative silence settling between them. Charles is calm, but something itches and turns in the sliver of space between Erik’s muscles and Erik’s skin, something like the low churn of an engine, static electricity, the rising rage of waves against a rocky shore.

Erik is the water and Charles is the rock.

“You told me loved me,” he says quietly.

Charles’ eyes flick up to him, though the rest of his body remains still.

“That night before Cuba.”

“Yes,” Charles murmurs. “You told me you loved me back, the next night at the hospital.”

There’s no rage there, no anger or resentment, only the acknowledgement of words spoken many years ago. A truth that is a wound. 

This is one difference between them. Charles treats his wounds, he cleans them and nurses them and when they turn into scars, he uses them as lessons, as reminders.

Erik’s wounds don’t heal.

Charles pushes off the sink and helps Erik stand again, helps him out of his underwear without any signs of appreciation or disgust at all, simply does what he needs to do. When Erik is under the hot spray of water, Charles closes the curtain and leans against the sink again.

“That’s one thing you haven’t brought up in years,” he says at length, when Erik is soaping up his lefts arm shakily.

“I don’t understand why you don’t hate me instead.”

Charles exhales. “No, I don’t expect you do.”

There’s a long pause as Erik finishes one arm, soaps across his chest to the other one, goes down his stomach.

“One does not, in fact, exclude the other,” Charles says suddenly, and Erik stills when Charles joins him in the shower, startlingly still dressed and willing, it seems, to sacrifice this shirt and slacks in order to help Erik stand from where he’s leaning shakily against the wall. “I do hate you sometimes. Mostly on damp cold days, that bullet scar hurts like you wouldn’t know.”

Erik leans gratefully against him, chest to chest, and lets Charles take the soap and clean his back. His hands find Charles’ hips. That thing that’s falling apart inside him crumbles some more, and it hurts, but—it feels like a good sort of pain. Lancing a boil. Cleaning a wound.

It’s good.

The burns down his chest throb dully. The only sounds Erik can hear is his own increasingly ragged breathing, Charles’ own calm and rhythmic one, and the shower. Charles has gotten between him and the spray, so that the water slams against his back instead of Erik’s ruined front. His hair is wet and clinging to his face as he reaches over and gets shampoo in his hands and on Erik’s hair. Erik lets his head drop back and stares blankly at the steam rolling lazy near the ceiling, like thick London fog.

Charles hums again, and wraps his hand lightly around the back of Erik’s neck, a gesture that feels possessive and strong—until Erik realizes he’s just urging him to lifts his head against into the spray to rinse the shampoo. Groggily, he does, and Charles dresses his hand over his eyes to shield them from the foam running down his face.

Erik realizes, abruptly, that he’s hard. He’s hard and pressed up against Charles’ front, his erection nestled against his hipbone. Being in a warm shower with an attractive man would get anyone hard and that would be perfectly fine, but the problem is he can feel Charles’ crotch and the telepath, himself, is not aroused at all.

“If you want to have sex, we can do that,” Charles says easily, eyes focused on making sure all of the foam is out of Erik’s hair. His thumb rubs absently along Erik’s hairline, slowly back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. It’s soothing. Erik is warm and tired. Something is broken inside him, like stress fractures splintering a vaulted ceiling. “But not now. You’re tired and hurt. Come look for me another time.”

Erik moves his head away from Charles’ thumb and thumps his forehead on the telepath’s shoulder. “It shouldn’t be this difficult to convince an admittedly sexually active man who is in love with me to fuck me.”

Charles chuckles. “You were hit by lightning two days ago. Let’s take it easy, hm?”

The truth is Erik is simply in no condition to have sex with anyone at the moment. He’s swaying on his feet already and he’s only been up for half an hour. Charles says nothing as he shuts off the shower, dries Erik off and helps him back to the bed, not once glancing at his flagging erection.

When he makes to move away, Erik catches him by the back of the neck, struggling up on his elbows. Charles grips his wrist, but he doesn’t shove him away, so that has to be something.

“I do love you,” Erik whispers, searching Charles’ eyes.

“You do,” Charles agrees, calm, clam, calm. “And you love me as best you can.”

“But it’s not enough for you.”

“No,” Charles smiles, and it’s a sad, sad little thing. “I need, want, and deserve more than you can give me. More than you can give me right now, in any case. Perhaps in the future, when the anger has burned out of you, you’ll have space in there for something else.”

“So you don’t want me,” Erik breathes, relaxing back against the pillows. His hand drops from Charles’ neck, and the telepath lets it go, but doesn’t release his wrist. Charles has startlingly big and masculine hands, short strong fingers and square blunt nails. The hair at the back is surprisingly dark. Erik stares at it in lieu of staring at Charles’ soft-soft eyes.

“I want you,” Charles murmurs. “I’ll always want you. But I have given myself up to you and been hurt for it one too many times, Erik, and I think enough is enough. I can’t hold this between us on my own.”

Erik drags a weary hand across his eyes. “I was hit by lightning, do we need to have this conversation now?”

“You started it,” Charles protests in a drawn-out sigh. “But I’ll let you rest.”

Charles starts to rise, and Erik’s eye drags down the long lean shape of his body where the shirt clings to his chest and the slacks to his well-muscles thighs. He throws out a hand and clutches the shirtsleeve, stalling Charles.

“And if I wanted—to try?” he asks. His throat is dry. Charles gives him a long, speculative look, cool and intelligent, nothing like his usual warm gaze.

“If you wanted to try,” he says softly, twisting his sleeve from Erik’s fingers gently. “You know where I am. But if you do,” he adds, pinning Erik with his eyes. “It better be the right way, and for the right reasons. I’m too old to be someone’s random fuck, and you certainly owe me more than that.”

“Yes,” breathes Erik. “I do.”

Charles’ brows arch. “Well. So long as you can admit that.”

Erik settles more comfortably down onto the mattress. It feels strange to be naked in bed alone, especially when Charles is right there they both want. But something in Erik’s chest is breaking open, and Charles is right—Erik owes him more than just a fuck.

“What’s the right way?” he asks, looking up at Charles from where he lies now on his side, increasingly sleepy.

Charles smiles, and this one is a sweet, warm smile, fond. Charles leans close and strokes Erik’s hair, smoothing it down against his skull, slow and gentle like a man in love.

“You’ll figure it out, darling.”

Erik feels the taste of apples in his mouth—something strange that always happens to him when Charles soothes his mind, an illusion brought up because apples were his mother’s favorite fruit, and his mother’s memory always soothes Erik when it’s not driving him mad. Apples and ink—Charles.

Erik sleeps.

When he wakes up next it’s dark out. The stars shine bright like beacons through the window and silver moonlight stripes the hardwood floors of the guest bedroom, here thin strings, here a ribbon, there a grey plank where the curtains have been shoved aside and the window open, to let warm summer breeze filter in.

Erik finds himself in a rare, odd moment of peace. Erik’s life is a violent one, a splatter of blood and a half-uttered scream caught in a dying throat. Peace for Erik is apples and ink, and oh. There’s the right reason. Erik’s always known the reason. The right way, though—that’s a problem.

It’s not that Erik doesn’t know. He knows; he understands. Charles wants peace with a desperation that claws at his insides. Violence and hate tear his delicate mind to ribbons, and peace—peace of calm, and silence, and a full night’s sleep without borrowing someone else’s nightmares, and Charles can so easily go mad with it all, with the loathing and the rage burning like wildfire across the world. Charles needs peace to exist because the hate will destroy him, and—oh.

Here’s the choice, then. Revenge might eventually bring Erik relief, but revenge is hate, and Charles needs—peace.

Charles asked him, once before, in a sunny beach in Cuba, to let it all go. And Erik didn’t, but now—now something feels fractured inside, and it feels like whatever was locked inside is pulsing, gaining strength as Erik lies there in a soft warm bed in a quiet place where violence can’t reach him, and he knows he’s safe.

He lies on his back, breathes in and, with the exhale—just this once, in this one moment, this interlude of lack of pain and violence—he lets it all go and lets himself be. Just a simple man, ordinary and unimportant. And once he finds that place where a balance exists, that small pocket of ease where he knows himself and there’s no room for doubt, he lets his mind turn back to Charles.

It’s not a snap, or the abrupt give of a dam, wearied with time by pressure. It’s a soft smooth thing, a descent into acceptance, a revelation, gliding and gentle and sweet, into something that’s been there all along.

He’s said the words before, but—the feeling, itself. It’s much more intense, once he allows himself to contemplate it openly. Like looking at the sun without shades. He’d do anything to avenge his mother, but he’d do even more to keep Charles, and oh.

That’s the right way, isn’t it.

Erik rises slowly from the bed, finds the clothes Charles has left folded upon a nearby chair, and dresses slowly. He does, indeed, know where Charles is to be found at this time of the evening. The library.

The hallways of the mansion-turned-school are dark—no doubt the children are all safely tucked in bed—but Erik needs no light. He makes his way to the library by memory alone, glad to run into no one—Charles’ people or his—and hesitates only a moment before slipping in through the heavy oak door to the library.

True to form, Charles sits at one of the long tables, alone except for a stack of thick books.  He’s bent over one, so absorbed by the text that he doesn’t look up at first, and Erik could mistake him for a student if it weren’t for the fact that this is Charles, who he will always know without question.

“I do know you’re there,” Charles says absently after a beat of silence, during which Erik has done little else besides stare at him, and the way his lashes sweep low across his cheeks as he keeps his eyes lowered to read. “I’m just trying to finish this paragraph.”

Erik huffs out a breath of amusement. He has always liked how dogged Charles is when it comes to his work.  Not even Erik can interrupt him.

Except this time.

“Yes, yes, alright,” Charles concedes when Erik moves to stand at the table opposite of him, pushing his book back and looking up to pin him with that keen blue gaze. “How are you feeling?”

“Better,” Erik allows. He studies Charles in return, really takes him in. He can recall their previous conversation with crystal clarity, down to the last minute shift of Charles’ face—the telepath can be downright expressionless when he wants to be, but never with him. Erik is always allowed to see everything.

Except.

“That’s good.” Charles hardly blinks, still watching him. “Will you be leaving soon?”

Erik pretends to deliberate. “In the morning.”

“Breakfast is at 7.” Charles says neutrally.

“Charles.” Erik says abruptly. He leans forward on the table, pressing both his palms down flat. They’re still looking at each other, nearly breathing in sync.

“Erik,” Charles says calmly, and waits.

It gives him pause. The right way. He wants to do this the right way. The moment hangs suspended between them; a bubble right before it pops.

“I would go to war for you,” he says plainly, and when Charles’ eyebrows raise he continues, “but I would also walk away for you.”

Charles goes very still. He’s gripping the edge of the table, though, and Erik can see that his knuckles are white. He still appears utterly composed, but Erik can see past that and sees the want written clearly across Charles’ face. Charles wants to believe him. But he doesn’t.

As he shouldn’t.

Except.

Charles draws in a breath. “You couldn’t. You’re too invested, it means too much to you—no.” He stops, and only because Erik knows him so well does he see the flicker of hurt cross the telepath’s face. “Don’t be cruel, Erik. Stop making promises to me that you cannot keep.”

Erik recognizes this point. It’s usually where he’ll grow angry, and then there will be harsh words, and then they will part ways, both of them unhappy. Forever locked in their stalemate. Except this time he takes a breath of his own. The small pocket of ease he found earlier trembles but it does not break. He will not allow it to break, because it is in that space that he knows. He can do this.

“Come in, Charles.” Erik lifts one hand, pressing two fingers to his temple in a mimic of the telepath’s old gesture. When Charles hesitates, Erik says, “All the way in.”

Charles bites his lower lip—another old gesture—and then comes in.

It is like the clouds parting to let the sun through. Both of them draw sharp, shuddering breaths and then laugh a little at the look on the other’s face. Charles is warm in his mind, gentle where he should not be, but Erik lays it out for him, lets him see. Makes him see.

There is a point for Erik, between rage and serenity, and it is and always has been Charles.

“Oh,” Charles says as he withdraws a little ways. His voice is thick with emotion, and his eyes are over-bright in the soft glow of the library room lamps, as if he is close to tears.

Erik only smiles, faint but there. “Oh indeed.” His smile fades as he regards the man across the table from him, the beautiful, infuriating, wonderful man who means more to him than all else. “I could walk away for you,” he repeats, and choses his words with care, “but I too deserve all the things that you do. Could you walk away?”

Charles looks at him silently. It is different from before and Erik wishes for a moment that he were the telepath so he could watch the gears turn in Charles’ brilliant head. He feels a small thrill of nervousness. He does not know how Charles will respond. There is no doubt that Charles loves him, unconditionally so, but he does not know how Charles measures him against everything else.

This, Erik realizes, must be how Charles has felt all along. For all the fact that he can read minds, Charles has had no way to tell all these years how Erik holds him in regard to their battles for mutant rights. Not even Erik had realized it, he thinks, chagrinned.

At last Charles sighs, soft and weary. “You make me selfish.”

“No.” Erik says firmly. He straightens, crossing around the table to where Charles sits. The chairs at the table are wheeled, so it is easy for him to tug at the wheels with his power, pulling the telepath back from the table and turning his chair sideways to face Erik. When Erik reaches him he drops to a crouch in front of him, putting his hands on the armrests of the chair. “It’s not about that. It’s not about any of that. It’s about you and me, Charles.”

Charles leans down wordlessly to cup Erik’s cheek with one hand, broad and warm. “You and I and ‘all of that’ are almost nearly the same thing, sometimes.”

“Could you separate them.” Erik says quietly. “I can.”

Charles’ eyes widen slightly.

“You told me to find the right way,” Erik says. He holds Charles’ gaze unblinkingly, “And that you cannot hold this thing between us on your own. Neither can I.”

Charles asked him, once before, in a sunny beach in Cuba, to let it all go. And Erik didn’t, but now, here in the quiet library, Erik is asking Charles the same. There is probably something to do with symmetry, poetically, but Erik doesn’t care—all that matters is Charles and the answer he gives.

“I no longer have any metaphors for what the world made me love about you,” Erik says, one hand sliding onto Charles’ thigh and he holds his mind open wide, “this is me asking you to stay with me.”

Charles makes a soft noise that could be a sob, his eyes brimming, and then he leans all the way down to press his forehead against Erik’s, closing his eyes to whisper against Erik’s lips, “Darling, darling, I’m not going anywhere. Not without you.”

Erik closes the tiny gap that still remains between them, kissing him softly. Charles is in his mind, twining around his thoughts as he kisses back, one hand still resting on Erik’s cheek. Erik can feel them crashing through one another, lighting up and resonating deeply as Charles’ power magnifies between them. He feels dampness from one of Charles’ tears and gently pulls back to kiss it away.

Charles keeps their foreheads pressed close. “You said you would go to war for me,” he says, and his voice is shaky. “I would set it all on fire if only to show you the light.”

“Maybe next week,” Erik murmurs, and Charles lets out a small laugh. “I don’t need that, Charles.”

“I don’t need war,” Charles returns softly, opening his eyes. This close they are like galaxies, holding the light of a trillion stars. “I just need you.”

“And that,” Erik answers, “we can finally agree on.”

Charles kisses him again, lips parting to allow Erik’s tongue inside the warm cavern of his mouth, and Erik can feel him shaking. Or maybe that’s him. He lifts his other hand to cup the back of Charles’ head, deepening their kiss. He should be afraid, should be terrified by the implications of this—his whole life, it feels like, he has been fighting. But now—he’s not afraid.

“I’ve got you,” Charles murmurs, because he alone out of everyone else understands, “I’ve got you.”

Erik rises to his feet and for a moment he’s struck by a vague sense of déjà vu, recalling the bathroom earlier, except this time he’s the one stood between the vee of Charles’ legs, looking down at Charles softly. His nearness is warmth.

He takes Charles’ hand and draws him up, and Charles comes willingly, a small smile toying at the edges of his lips. They leave the library together, pausing only for Charles to turn off the lights, and then they walk through the hallways of Charles’ home hand-in-hand.

Erik leads the way straight to Charles’ bedroom, pulling the door quietly shut behind them once they’re both inside. Charles brings him down for a kiss, slow and unhurried, and then allows Erik to walk him backwards towards the bed.

“This isn’t going to be easy,” Charles says when the backs of his legs hit the mattress and he sinks down. He looks up at Erik, gauging him for a response.

“No,” Erik agrees. He lifts a knee, settling it on the edge of the mattress between Charles’ legs, giving him a nudge. He knows Charles isn’t talking about sex. “But it doesn’t have to be hard.”

Charles breaks into a true smile then, bright and unrestrained, and then scoots backwards onto the bed as Erik follows him down. Erik drapes himself over Charles, covering him like a blanket. His injuries are still sore, but it’s a pleasant ache now. Erik stretches, and if the movement just so happens to grind their crotches together, well.

“I did have my student do a second round of healing on you,” Charles says, a little amused, as Erik begins to kiss his neck, just below his ear.

“Good,” Erik rumbles, and Charles shivers.

Getting their clothes off is a slow affair, but it’s alright. There’s no need to rush. They have all the time in the world now. Erik draws Charles’ cardigan off first, letting it ruffle his hair, and then slowly begins to unbutton the crisp white shirt underneath, letting his fingers brush against the skin of the telepath’s chest as he goes. Charles lies limp and pliant beneath him, spread out on the bed like a painting on canvas, content to watch Erik.

“You are a beautiful man,” he says when Erik has let the shirt drop off the side of the bed.

Erik can’t help the smirk that unfurls across his lips. “I am only vain because you make me so,” he complains, fingers already working at Charles’ belt. He could use his power, but.

Charles’ mirroring smirk is decidedly more wicked. He lifts his arms, tugging lightly at Erik’s shirt. “I only make observation. It’s purely scientific.”

“Are you flirting, then,” Erik says dryly, “because you only turn scientific when you flirt.”

Charles just laughs, his happiness bubbling against Erik’s mind courtesy of his telepathy. “Then make like helicase and unzip my jeans, my darling.”

“Awful.” Erik says, even as he bends to press a kiss to the patch of skin just below Charles’ navel.

“But you love me,” Charles says, and while it’s not an outright question it’s a close thing.

Erik lifts his gaze to look up at him. Charles already knows that Erik loves him—has known for years—but that’s not what he’s asking now. He still wants to believe Erik, but can’t quite bring himself to trust him just yet. Erik understands.

It was like that for him, in the beginning.

“Unreservedly,” he says, and it is the truth. One day Charles will trust him. Until then, Erik will just have to work at proving it over and over again.

He can’t say that he minds this new task.

He gets Charles’ pants off, pulling off his socks and shoes while he’s at it so that Charles is naked beneath him and unashamed for it. He removes his own clothes only slightly more briskly, and then goes right back down to stretching out over Charles. They both groan at the touch of skin-on-skin.

Erik knows Charles intimately, has mapped out the telepath’s body with both fingers and tongue, but it never fails every time to feel like an entirely new experience. He could never grow tired of Charles. Perhaps he should have taken that as a clue far earlier on. But they are here, now. No time like the present.

Charles runs a hand through Erik’s hair, fingernails scratching lightly against his scalp. “Oh, darling,” he says softly, warm with affection. “You give me the kind of feeling people write novels about.”

When they come together, it is soft and smooth, just like Erik’s earlier revelation. He knows which drawer Charles keeps his things in, so it’s a small matter to retrieve the lube, smearing it liberally onto his fingers. Charles folds one leg up and holds it to his chest while Erik preps him, mouth falling open slightly with every hitched breath as Erik stretches him, their gazes locked. Erik could spend an eternity teasing him, sliding his fingers in and out of Charles’ hole until the telepath is begging him for it, but that can come later. Right now he just wants Charles as close as he can possibly get him.

When Erik pushes in with his cock, Charles’ body giving way beneath his, he feels them click into place, physically and mentally, and how could he have ever been unsure about wanting this, having this forever. Charles yields his body and Erik yields his mind, and then he starts to move, bracing his hands on the bed on either side of Charles’ head, and oh. This is what true perfection really is.

Charles cants his hips up to meet Erik on every thrust and they move together, never looking away. Charles has always been more eloquent than him, but Erik excels in the physical. He can show Charles. He can show Charles that he means everything, means it all—that Charles is everything to him, and that he is finally ready to put Charles first.

Charles lets out a breathy moan beneath him, gripping Erik’s forearms tightly. His hair is plastered to his forehead, damp with sweat, and inside Erik’s head he is a symphony of love, amplified between them until Charles is literally all that Erik knows, lost in the telepath’s irresistible tide. He is hot and warm and tight around Erik’s cock, and when he clenches Erik sees stars, letting out a breathless gasp as he sinks down one last time into Charles and comes, entire body quivering.

“Charles,” he pants, the only word he’s capable of anymore.

“I’ve got you,” Charles says, repeating himself from before. Erik has never heard truer words in all of his life.

Still buried inside Charles, Erik reaches down between them and finds Charles’ cock, hard and leaking with precum. When he wraps his hands around the thick length Charles makes a choked sound, his back arching a little ways off the bed. Erik moves his hand, jerking Charles off slowly, reducing the telepath beneath him to an incoherent mess. When Charles comes, Erik lets the semen smear across both of their stomachs, too busy watching Charles’ face as the telepath slumps, panting and sated.

“Next time it’s my turn,” Charles says faintly when Erik pulls out of him, and he would be lying if he said his cock didn’t give an interested twitch.

Erik is tired, though, and still not at his full strength. He flops down onto the bed, half-covering Charles, and burying his face in the juncture of the telepath’s neck and shoulder. “Anything you want.”

Charles chuckles, shifting a little beneath him. The come on their stomachs is sticky, and will dry soon. It’ll be itchy. Erik should get up. He should leave soon anyway—

But he shouldn’t. But he won’t.

Somehow, he only feels relief.

Charles draws in a sharp intake of breath, and then Erik feels him twist sideways, curling around Erik’s body tightly. “I love you,” he says, into Erik’s ear.

There will be things that they disagree on. They will fight. It’s in their nature. But they won’t be fighting on opposite sides of a battle. Not anymore.

And everything else—there will be time for that later. All the time in the world.

“I love you,” Erik says in answer, and there’s one more thing he can add to his list of what Charles is—apples and ink and just right.

 

 

When you've seen beyond yourself, then you may find, peace of mind is waiting there.

George Harrison.