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Charles loves riding the bus. There is something pleasant about the closeness of minds on the bus that’s different than minds on the street or in the grocery store. Everyone is very aware of one another and yet still caught up in themselves in a way that Charles finds fascinating. And it still feels like a new experience every time with each new combination. Before moving out to student housing for university, Charles always had a chauffeur to take him around. So even if he’s on his way to help Raven pick out what to wear for the New Year’s Eve party (which is still three days away) and will likely spend the afternoon having his fashion sense mocked and ignored, Charles is in a good mood.

Today the bus is packed, the way it often is in the cold chill of winter, and Charles is standing, wedged between a middle-aged businessman who could do with a shower and a grad student wearing too much perfume. The mingling scents are hardly bothersome, as Charles closes his eyes to listen to the din of the close-packed minds around him, leaning into each jerky turn and stop of the bus with his hand clenched tightly around the pole he can barely reach above his head.

On a particularly harsh stop, Charles lurches forward and has to shuffle his feet heavily to relieve the strain on his arm and stop himself from falling. Unfortunately, with his eyes closed, Charles doesn’t notice the expensive leather shoe his foot lands on until it’s too late—his telepathy is good for detecting the general location of a body but awful about the details like hands and feet.

The man the shoe belongs to bites out a pained curse in a language that is not English and Charles mutters a quick apology, eyes snapping up to the man’s face as soon as he’s corrected his footing. And, well. The man is gorgeous, even with that indignant scowl twisting his features, the icy blue eyes under the brim of his (somehow good-looking) fedora more striking than the sharp cut of his jaw and nose. Everything on the bus seems to fade around them for a moment, the entire world narrowing down to the man seated in front of him. With a deliberate, leisurely sweep of his gaze, the man looks Charles up and down, finally coming back to hold Charles’ gaze with an intensity that Charles is unused to feeling directed at himself.

Charles’ phone vibrates in his pocket and suddenly the world comes back into focus around them. Charles isn’t sure whether he’s glad for the distraction or not, but he pulls his eyes away from the man and scrambles one-handed for his phone.

Tell me you’re close I’m going crazy, Raven’s text reads, so close to something she’d actually say that Charles can almost hear the whine in her voice.

Biting his lip against his still racing heart, Charles thumbs back, Twenty more min on the bus maybe. He’s sometimes very glad for autocorrect.

Charles stares at his phone while he waits for Raven’s response, anything to keep himself from looking back up to see the man’s steel gaze, or worse, to find that he’s looked away. He doesn’t particularly enjoy having conversations via texting, but it’s somehow the perfect distraction in this moment and the text Raven sends back is predictable enough to be calming. OMG I need you to distract me from my misery. Anything interesting on the bus?

The bus is always interesting, Charles types back, feeling out at the bright minds around him.

DETAILS, Raven demands almost immediately and Charles wonders if she sent it before his message went through.

Considering the repercussions for only a moment, Charles sends, There’s this cute guy. Apparently he wants to torture himself this afternoon.

Again, Raven’s response comes fast, Pics or I won’t believe you.

Before Charles can really stop himself, his eyes jump back up from his phone. The man has turned away, and Charles is momentarily disappointed that he’s not the focus of the man’s attention. But the man has crossed his arms over his chest and is looking toward the front window of the bus and Charles is very aware of sleek, black leather gloves and of the glare of the sun off the snow-lined streets hitting the man’s eyes at an angle that makes his eyes almost white.

Swallowing against a suddenly dry throat, Charles types, No way, and spends the next minute staring pointedly out the window.

Loser, Raven says. Then, Fine. Just give me the details.

Charles glances at the man once more before typing back, Thirty-something. Probably tall and dark. Definitely handsome. Blue eyes. High cheekbones. Sharp nose. Exquisite taste in clothes. You’d like him.

The wait for Raven’s response seems too long, and when it does come, Charles feels himself blush from the top of his head to the tips of his fingers. I bet he wants to bone you. Does he?

Licking his lips again, Charles only gets halfway through his How would I know text before Raven sends another. Read his mind. I bet he wants you.

Charles glares down at his phone, wishing Raven could feel it, and considers not answering to show her just how much he doesn’t approve. But, if he doesn’t respond, he’ll be forced to look away from his phone, and if he looks away from his phone, the only thing he’ll really have to look at is the captivating man in front of him. And now that Raven’s put it in his head, Charles isn’t sure he can stop himself from looking into the man’s mind if he has nothing else on which to focus.

So he types back, stabbing at his phone with his thumb, You know I don’t use it like that.

Bullshit, Raven responds, and Charles can feel his ears heating up again. He can’t think of anything to say back, though, because he knows that Raven is at least partly right. Raven saves him with another text. Whatever. Your loss. Maybe you should just ask him like the rest of us have to.

Charles wants to keep glaring at his phone, but one glance out the window tells him it’s almost his stop. For a moment, he wants to prove to Raven he’s more than who she thinks he is; he can be daring and mischievous like other young people and Raven should know it better than anyone else.

Taking a deep breath to boost his courage, Charles clicks the camera app on his phone and says, “Excuse me, Sir.” The man glances up, looking marginally confused and a little annoyed, and Charles snaps a picture. It’s not a surreptitious picture, where no one can tell the picture’s being taken, it’s the kind of picture that’s in the man’s face and Charles can feel the judgment of half a dozen people around him. He doesn’t really care what they think, though, and is caught by the way the frown on the man’s face slowly pulls into a smirk as he realizes what’s happened.

“Thanks,” Charles mumbles as the bus comes to a stop, trying to stop himself blushing. He pushes his way off the bus with far less grace than he wants. It’s only partially comforting to know that he’ll never see the man again, so it doesn’t matter how ridiculous he might come off.


Day two of dress shopping is a nightmare, but not because Charles doesn’t like going out with Raven. He’s been miserable since that bus ride, or more accurately, since he looked at the picture he managed to get after stepping off the bus. Sitting dejectedly in the dressing room of the millionth store Raven’s dragged him to, Charles stares down at the photo. It’s slightly blurred from the motion of the bus, but Charles can make out every detail of the man’s face and they’re all just as perfect as Charles remembers. He tries not to hate himself.

“Raven,” he calls through the door, hoping that he doesn’t sound as whiny as he thinks he does, “Why didn’t I just give him my number.”

There’s the sound of a long zipper being pulled up and Raven calls back, “Because you are awful at flirting. But we already knew that.” Charles moans softly and hits his head against the thin wall behind his seat.

A door opens and Charles cracks an eye to see how Raven’s current dress looks. “Are you wearing a blue and yellow spandex dress?” he asks after his eyes have adjusted.

Raven sighs dramatically and rolls her eyes. “I thought it would cheer you up,” she grumbles, stalking back into her dressing room and nearly slamming the door.

Charles makes a pathetic attempt at a laugh and sinks back in his chair. A minute later, Raven emerges again in a short, blue dress that Charles is fairly certain would blend in with her skin were she in her true form. “How do I look?” she asks, spinning on her heel.

“Beautiful,” Charles says, because he loves blue and Raven looks fantastic in it every time.

It’s apparently the wrong thing to say, however, because Raven scowls at him. “What?” she asks. “No flowery comparisons to bus dude’s eyes?”

With a sigh, Charles says, “Look, Raven, I’m sorry if I’m being annoying. He was just so perfect. I can’t help feeling like I’ve missed out on something.”

“Give me your phone,” Raven says after a moment, grabbing for it where it’s resting limply in Charles’ hand.

Charles isn’t sure why she wants his phone, but he knows the picture is open and that Raven’s frustrated with him. “Don’t you dare delete the picture, Raven,” he says, jabbing a finger threateningly to his temple when Raven holds his phone above her head, out of his reach.

Rolling her eyes again, Raven says, “Don’t get your panties in a twist. I’m just looking again.” Glaring and crossing his arms over his chest in defeat, Charles watches her closely to make sure she doesn’t do anything but that.

“Just as I thought,” Raven says after a minute of inspecting the photo, handing the phone back to Charles. “He’s not all that great. He mostly just looks old.”

“He’s not old!” Charles says defensively, even though he has only a vague idea.

Raven laughs and sashays back into her dressing room. “You are absolutely pathetic and tomorrow night we are finding you some booze and a man and you are going to have a great time.”

“Yeah, right,” Charles grumbles, slumping back down into his chair.

“And I am going to look stunning in that black and gold dress from Forever 21,” Raven calls, her smile evident in her voice.

Charles groans. “That was the first dress you tried on!” Charles says. “Yesterday!”


Raven does look stunning in her black and gold dress, the shine of the sequins accenting the shine of her blue scales. And, after two hours of fussing over Charles’ hair and clothes, Charles doesn’t look too bad, either. However, those two hours have made them slightly more than fashionably late to the party, not that Raven seems to notice.

The party is downtown, put on by the local Mutant Youth Defense League for which Charles and Raven have recently started to volunteer. There will not be alcohol, despite Raven’s insistence that Charles just needs to get drunk—not that Charles would do so in public anyway, being underage and respectable. It’s a good cause, though, with the a low enough admitance fee that it’s still affordable, and it’s given Charles an excuse to evade his mother’s New Year’s Eve party.

“I would stay on your arm,” Raven whispers in Charles’ ear, “but I think that would defeat the purpose of finding you a suitable partner for the evening.”

Charles tries to grab at her arm as she pulls away, but she’s too quick. “Please, no,” he says desperately. “I’m perfectly fine dancing with you!” Raven’s laugh trails behind her as she disappears into the thick crowd, leaving Charles quite alone.

As much as Charles likes being in close proximity to many minds at once—especially mutant minds, their glow so much brighter—he doesn’t particularly like being in social situations with so many people; it gets distracting, harder to decipher one person from another. Grumbling, he shuffles over to the drink table in an effort to busy himself at least a little. He finds it stocked with sodas of every kind and a punch that looks ripe for spiking. Hopefully someone will get on that soon.

Sighing, Charles reaches for the last can of Sprite, only to have it snatched away by a quick hand. “Excuse me,” Charles says, glancing up at the thief. Charles isn’t above manipulating a mind into thinking it doesn’t actually want Sprite, Coke sounds better, but he freezes at what he sees.

It’s the man from the bus, but tonight he’s wearing a darker suit and he’s lost his hat. More importantly, there’s a nametag stuck to his lapel that reads Erik, and having a name to go with his face makes Charles’ heart clench painfully. Erik’s eyes look more green than before, probably due to the yellowness of the lights in the dance hall, and they look just as startled as Charles feels. Except, Erik must be remembering their last encounter with a more judgmental eye than Charles, if he remembers it at all.

Charles drops his hand and grabs a can of diet coke instead. “Sorry,” he mumbles, looking away. He can feel his ears burning and he knows that Erik is still watching him. His best option, he thinks, is to retreat before any confrontation can occur, and he tries to duck away.

“No,” Erik says, and Charles halts at his voice, completely enthralled. Erik continues, “I took your drink, I should apologize.”

Behind the foreign accent, Erik’s voice is rich and serious in a way that Charles still associates with adults, but it’s tempered by amusement, and when Charles glances back up, he can see that smirk from the bus is back on Erik’s face. Swallowing thickly, Charles says, “It’s fine. You keep it.” He’s fairly certain he’d give Erik anything.

His smirk morphing into a genuinely pleased smile, Erik holds out the can of Sprite and says, “No, no. I don’t take anything from the young mutants at the MYDL.” When Charles doesn’t take the can, Erik lets it go and somehow it stays up, floating gently towards Charles.

Taking the can more out of surprise and awe than desire, Charles breathes, “That’s amazing.”

With a curl of his finger, Erik pulls the Diet Coke out of Charles’ hand and into his own. He nods at Charles’ compliment and says, “I haven’t seen you around before. Did Logan meet you and forget to mention it to me or Moira?”

For a moment, Charles feels more indignant than embarrassed. He’s partially glad that Erik isn’t mentioning their previous encounter—although it might be easier to get it over with—but Charles has been eighteen for months now, and he’s tired of people assuming he’s not an adult. “I’m not a member,” Charles says, keeping his frustration from his voice, but unable to contain the flush on his cheeks. “I’m a donor.”

Erik laughs disbelievingly into his Diet Coke. “You can’t possibly be more than sixteen,” he says. His eyes catch Charles again, and there is a depth there that captivates Charles and saps his annoyance from him.

“Eighteen,” he says, squaring his shoulders in an effort to appear larger. “Perfectly old enough to do most things. Legally.”

This time, Erik’s laugh sounds breathless, like it’s startled out him, and he looks away toward the door. “I didn’t realize adults took surprise pictures of strangers on the bus,” he says, voice rumbling in a deep way that makes Charles want to reach out and feel it in his chest, at least until he realizes what Erik has said.

Embarrassment makes Charles want to erase this encounter from Erik’s mind or call out to Raven for help. Charles manages to keep his mind in check, however, with a conscious effort. Turning his eyes down to Erik’s shoes, the same designer shoes as before, Charles says, “I’m sorry about that.”

“You could’ve just asked,” Erik says after a moment of pause, and Charles looks up into his face again. The look they share is intense. Charles hasn’t had as many sexual encounters in his life as he would like, but he is well-versed in the way that people think, and even without checking, he’s almost certain that this is something more, for both of them.

That thought, however, is even more embarrassing, terrifying, than any before. Charles has already made a fool of himself in front of Erik and it’s still sinking in that this is the man Charles has been staring at for the past three days, memorizing the blurred details of his face, and imagining what that face might look like concentrated in pleasure, breaking with it. He needs to get away, to regroup, and he starts to say, “I’m really very sorry, I just—”

But Erik interrupts, holding out his hand, “I’m Erik, by the way.”

Charles stops, licks his lips as he observes those long fingers, no longer covered in soft, black leather, and says, “Charles.” Taking Erik’s hand is a shock, bringing Erik’s mind, which Charles has been avoiding with everything he has, right up against Charles. Charles can feel Erik’s muddled self-conflict, taste the sharpness of his interest, and he almost feels like he’s drowning the burn of Erik’s arousal. Distantly, Charles worries that he might be bleeding over as much as he’s receiving.

It’s only been a few seconds when Charles pulls his hand back, but it feels like it’s been an eternity. There’s a light flush on Erik’s cheeks, his lips parted in surprise, as he stares at Charles. Swallowing down his own surprise and shaking out his hand by his side in a vain attempt to stop it tingling, Charles mumbles, “Sorry, I have to—there’s something—sorry.”

He flees to the bathroom, not letting himself look back.


“This year is going to be awful,” Charles moans into his couch on New Year’s morning.

He’d spent the entire evening at Raven’s side, ducking his head whenever he saw Erik across the large hall. Raven hadn’t been particularly pleased with him, but she’d let him mope with her for most of the evening anyway. They’d left right after midnight, after sharing a quick, friendly, commiserative kiss, and crashed at Charles’ single dorm room.

Raven rolls off Charles’ bed, her feet thudding heavily on the floor. “Somewhere in here, I know you’re chilling a bottle of champagne,” she says, stalking over to his mini-fridge.

Charles sits up and runs a hand through his hair, probably only tousling it even more. “There’s orange juice, too,” he says with a sigh.

With a pleased hum, Raven says, “Mimosas. You really know how to treat a lady.”

“I plan on drinking at least half of that bottle myself, you know,” Charles mutters, grabbing the champagne flutes he keeps for occasions such as this.

Apparently Raven has no complaints about that, because they spend the rest of the morning drinking mimosas that are more champagne than orange juice. It’s mostly quiet outside, the city still sleeping after the night’s celebrations, but Charles and Raven giggle their way through the bottle, easily passing the time with mindless conversation that they have mastered over the past ten years.

“I screwed up so badly last night,” Charles says, barely aware that changing the conversation back to Erik might kill the mood. He spins his empty champagne flute between his fingers absently and continues, “Why was he there? He was supposed to be some fantasy, Raven, not a real person!”

Raven snorts and grabs Charles’ glass away, which is probably for the best. “Like I told you last night,” she says, lying back down on the couch across Charles lap, “you are pathetic.”

Charles fights the urge to stick out his tongue, his misery overcoming his annoyance. “If I had just been able to think a little more clearly, I might’ve even been able to give him my number,” Charles mumbles.

“I thought you didn’t want him to be a real person,” Raven says, typing out a text on her phone. Charles tries not to think about how his mother hasn’t responded to his Happy New Year text.

“It’s more complicated than that!” Charles says, feeling spiteful. “Haven’t you ever had a crush before?”

Kneeing Charles in the chest half-heartedly, Raven says, “Shut up. I’m serious. Do you want him to be real or not?”

It’s a question that Charles doesn’t know the answer to, except he knows exactly. The only reason he can possibly give for not wanting Erik to be real is to save his own pride and that’s not worth it. Charles likes people who take risks in their lives—that’s why he’s stayed friends with Raven this long—and maybe it’s time that Charles start taking risks for himself. Instead of keeping Erik a fantasy, he might be able to make this real. Except, Charles realizes dully, Erik has already disappeared again, despite having a name now.

“What does it matter?” Charles moans, dropping his head back on the backrest.

Raven sighs in frustration and throws a pillow at Charles. “Answer the question!” she demands.

“Why?” Charles whines, tossing the pillow back half-heartedly before throwing his arm across his face. “Why are you pushing so much?”

There’s a pause and Charles looks down at Raven to find her smirking up at him. “I might’ve let your number slip to a certain sexy, bus-riding mutant who also happens to be quite sociable—if a little growly, but that’s probably easily explained by sexual frustration—”

“Raven!” Charles gasps, possibly more startled by her personal observations than her actions. Then it all sinks in. “You gave him my number?!” he asks, pushing himself to his feet and knocking Raven’s legs off the couch in the process.

“Jesus!” Raven exclaims, flailing to keep her balance. “I thought you’d be happy!”

Charles bites his lip, ready to deny it, but he is happy, the feeling a small flutter in his stomach. “But,” he says, “what if he doesn’t do anything with it?”

“Oh my god,” Raven says in exasperation. “Do you not understand how these things work at all?”

Moaning, Charles grabs for his phone, intending to pine over Erik’s photo some more, but there’s a text from a local number Charles doesn’t recognize and suddenly his heart is beating in his throat.

Happy New Year, is all it says.

“What do I—?” Charles asks, waving his phone at Raven, feeling numb.

Raven smirks at him and tears the phone from his hand. “Wrong move, Charles,” she says, and starts a new message on his phone. Charles scrambles for the phone, but Raven giggles in delight and throws it back towards the bed. “Now,” she says, kissing Charles on the cheek, “now you’ve asked him on a date!”


“I don’t know what I’m doing here,” Erik grunts at Charles as he sits down across from him at their table in the fancy restaurant Raven has chosen. It’s not the most heartening start to a date, but Charles tries to keep up his hopes.

Charles fiddles with his napkin and swallows down an apology. Instead, he says, “My friend was the one who sent you the invitation. She thinks she has an obligation to run my love life. She even picked out my tie.”

Erik laughs and Charles finds himself mesmerized by the sound. “Some things don’t change, then,” Erik says, taking a sip of his water. “My friend is the one who was texting you, as well. I think she was annoyed with me talking about you all the time.”

They laugh quietly, and Charles tries to contain his glee at the thought of Erik thinking of him as much as he thinks of Erik. He wants to read Erik again, like he had done by accident before, but now, he tells himself, is as good a time as any to start enforcing his morals. That doesn’t stop Erik’s eyes from being the most distracting things Charles has ever seen.

When his laughter subsides, Erik’s gaze turns serious. “Really, though,” he says, hands clenching into fists on the table, “I’m much too old for you. I probably shouldn’t have come.”

Charles’ heart feels tight, but he’s not sure how to respond. Everything he wants to say might make him come off sounding even younger or more immature. Licking his lips, Charles leans back from the table, giving himself some distance, and asks straightforwardly, “So why are you here?”

Erik’s surprised amusement is palpable, even though Charles is keeping a tight rein on his mind; it’s intoxicating. “Well,” Erik says, his eyes roaming down Charles’ neck and chest before returning to his face, “I suppose I find you interesting.”

“Interesting,” Charles breathes, letting his shoulders relax. It’s not the most informative description, but Charles likes it. “And how’s that?” he asks.

Leaning in over the table, Erik says, “You’re young and you’re rude enough to take pictures of strangers on the bus. Of course, that could also just mean you’re more privileged than is strictly necessary, as you indicated you donate to the MYDL. You must come from money to have enough of it for that so young. But you’re also courageous and confident and you at least believe in the mutant cause. You’re a telepath of some sort and, let’s not forget, you are gorgeous.” He pauses, looking away, and Charles finds the flush rising on Erik’s cheeks as gratifying as his words.

When Erik doesn’t continue, Charles prompts, “But…?”

“But you’re so young,” Erik says, voice deep and frustrated. “I’m more than fifteen years older than you!”

Charles’ clenches his jaw and tries not to blush with either embarrassment at Erik’s dilemma or arousal that the knowledge of Erik’s age has brought. He’s probably blushing anyway. Reaching out slowly with his hand, Charles rests his fingers gently over Erik’s on the table, reveling in the way it raises the volume of the hum of Erik’s mind. “Can’t you give me a chance?” he asks. “Or are you going to let all that flattery go to waste?”

Laughing again, Erik nods. “I think I’ll have to,” he says, and lets their hands remain where they are.

At the end of the night, as Charles crawls out of their shared taxi when it stops in front of his dorm, Erik says his name and Charles turns back to him. Chuckling softly, Erik snaps a quick photo of Charles with his phone. “Now we’re even,” he says with a smirk.


Their second date doesn’t go as smoothly as the first, with an argument about the proper approach to mutant-human power relations and dynamics. Neither of them is willing to back down at all, and Charles is only barely able to divert the attention of the manager to ensure that they are not kicked out of the restaurant. The argument lasts the entire dinner, full of loud words and flailing forks—which, Charles discover, Erik can take out of his hands with a glance if he wants.

“I can’t believe how naïve you are,” Erik growls as he slides into the back of the taxi next to Charles, slamming the door behind him.

Charles stares at him for a moment, his heart beating heavily in his chest. Erik is leaning towards him, awaiting a response Charles doesn’t know how to give. In fact, Charles can’t think of anything at all, except for the points of Erik’s teeth and the passionate glint in his eye. “Erik,” Charles says breathlessly, and leans forward to press his lips to Erik’s.

Erik tenses immediately and pulls back, his frustrated scowl turning more into a confused frown. Self-chastisements rise up in Charles like a storm and he’s ready to pull away and pretend this never and resign himself to the end of this relationship. But Erik leans forward, his hands coming up to cup Charles face with a gentleness that is incongruous with his leather gloves and that Charles doesn’t suspect. The kiss is long, but not deep, and Charles finds himself clinging desperately to the front of Erik’s coat, melting against his front.

When they finally pull apart, Erik rests his forehead against Charles’ and asks, his voice rough, “Do you want to come back to my place?”

“Oh, god, yes,” Charles breathes, licking his lips and tightening his hold on Erik’s coat. Erik moans quietly, sending a thrill down Charles’ spine.

Turning away from Charles to give the cabbie new directions, Erik drops his hands from Charles’ face. When he sits back, he glances briefly at Charles before grabbing Charles’ hand in his own and looking straight forward. Briefly, Charles hopes for another kiss, but, sitting this close, Charles can hear the We’re in the back of a taxi, for god’s sake and Charles feels his ears turn red with shame. He contents himself to feel the heat of Erik pressed against his side and the strong pressure of his fingers through leather.

“We shouldn’t do this,” Erik whispers as the cab pulls up in front of his building. Charles gets the impression that he isn’t meant to hear, but that only makes it more frustrating.

Handing the cab fare to the cabbie—since Erik had been so kind to pick it up last time—and pushing the door open into the chilly night, Charles pulls Erik out of the cab and says, “I’m not a child, Erik. I know what I want.”

Erik looks queasy and unmoved, staring up at his building with a pained expression on his face. “But you are,” Erik grumbles.

Charles pulls Erik down for another kiss in retaliation, this time licking at Erik’s lips, opening his mouth to Erik, waiting. And something in Erik seems to snap, the feel of it echoing across Charles’ mind. Erik grips at Charles arms, holding him tightly as he takes over the kiss, his lips and tongue and teeth working carefully at Charles’ mouth. It’s like the sound that all the echoes of people’s fantasies that Charles hears originate from, and Charles moans weakly into it.

“Inside,” he gasps, pulling away.

Growling, Erik drags Charles inside. The elevator ride is tense and silent, with Erik’s hand still wrapped tightly around Charles’ arm and his eyes fixed on the slowly ticking numbers above the door. Erik’s apartment is sparsely decorated, everything in it sleek and utilitarian. Everything is grey and steel and blue, and Charles is reminded briefly of Erik’s eyes before Erik is crowding him against the wall.

Pushing Charles’ coat off his shoulders and pressing their faces close, Erik asks, “Are you sure this is alright?”

Charles mouths wetly at the underside of Erik’s jaw and tries to rock forward into Erik to show him just how alright this is, but Erik shoves back, his eyes hard and searching. With a sigh, Charles runs a hand through his hair and presses two fingers to his temple. “Can I?” he asks.

Erik’s eyes fix on Charles’ fingers, his frown deepening slightly before he gives a short nod. “Of course,” he says, licking his lips nervously.

Closing his eyes to concentrate, Charles sends along everything that he feels for Erik directly into Erik’s mind. It’s a stream of frustration and pride, luck and disbelief, desire and uncertainty, and lust and affection. Erik breathes out slowly as Charles’ emotions filter through his mind, lips falling open at the sensation. When it’s finished, and Erik and Charles blink back into awareness before each other, Erik whispers an awed, “Wow.”

Charles kisses Erik’s hand gently, drawing him over to the couch so they can both collapse onto it. “Sorry if that was too much,” Charles says, worrying he might have killed the mood.

Erik’s jaw clenches a few times before he asks, “Is it like that for you all the time? From everyone?”

“It’s different for me,” Charles says, sliding the gloves off of Erik’s fingers. “But it can be like that, if you want—if that’s okay with you.”

Erik draws in a deep breath, turning to face Charles fully. His eyes are wet and his cheeks are splotchy red with a flush Charles hasn’t seen there before. “Anything you want,” he says, closing his hands around Charles’. “Just tell me what to do.”

“You don’t have to do anything different,” Charles says, leaning forward. “Just kiss me already.” And Erik does, pushing Charles back down onto the couch.