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Rage and no Serenity

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Prologue - Warren

 

“That was... nice.“

“Yes, it was.“

Warren smiled at the young man facing him. The dim light in the small corridor nevertheless illuminated his soft brown hair, red kissed lips and bright blue eyes. He could get used to this view, Warren thought. But he wasn’t in any situation to hope for anything permanent. However – maybe a second time?

“Can I leave my number? Just in case you, er, want to do this again?”

He sounded a bit too desperate for his own liking.

“No date, just sex,” he added quickly.

“Oh, yes. No, I would love that. Hang on, I’ve got a piece of paper and a pen somewhere.”

There it was again: The little smile that had charmed him straight away. He had to come here again, if only to see that same smile one more time.

Warren took the little notepad and pen and wrote down his name and number. Placing both on the small wooden table next to the door, he asked: “So, when did you say the cab was going to be here?”

“Should only be ten minutes or so. I...” Warren saw the tiniest blush forming on those freckled cheeks, “I’m really sorry, but it won’t be coming to the house. I asked them to send it to the bus stop around the corner. It’s just… I don’t want a cab in front of my house in the middle of the night. People will… I mean… They don’t….” He looked extremely uncomfortable.

“Don’t worry!” Warren reassured him. “It’s not a problem. I understand. It’s the same for me. But you’ll have to tell me where to go.”

“Sure, I’ll…. It’s just a few minutes down the street. You go all the way down until the very end. Then you turn right and walk just a bit further. You’ll see the bus stop when you’re there. I’m... really sorry,” he added bashfully.

“It’s alright. I’ll be waiting for your call. Thanks again for the great night.”

“No, thank you. I loved it.”

They pecked each other on the cheek and Warren left into the mild summer night.

Walking down the street, he thought about their encounter. It really had been great. Passionate and intense. Hopefully it would happen again. Anything else would be a shame.

 

It was still dark, but the street-lamps illuminated the sidewalk as well as the orderly houses and their neat front gardens. Warren chuckled, when he spotted fountains and birdbaths in a few of them.

When he reached the end of the street, he noticed a young man a few yards behind him who seemingly had been following him. No, not following. He shouldn’t be so paranoid.

Nevertheless, he still felt slightly uneasy when he reached the bus stop and saw the man continuing to walk towards him. He hoped the taxi would come soon.

Warren cast a quick glance at the stranger. He was tall and bulky with very short hair and he had his gaze fixed on Warren.

“Can I help you?”

Warren’s question sounded too loud and strange in the quiet night.

The stranger didn’t answer but kept coming closer. He had almost reached Warren now, his gaze never leaving him. Warren took an involuntary step backwards. He saw the stranger clench his teeth.

The headbutt took Warren completely by surprise and he fell to the ground, all dazed. He felt the stranger’s brutal kicks in his stomach, his side, his back. Warren covered his face with his arms, trying to shield his head.

 

 

 

 

Chapter One – Raven

 

( discovered in the early hours of this sunday morning by a taxi driver who had been called there previously by the victim himself )

 

“Turn off the telly, Hank. I’m hungry”

 

(“ seemingly been beaten or kicked to death by an attacker or attackers yet unknown ”)

 

“Hank!”

“Raven, look at this! Isn’t that just around the corner from where Charles lives?”

Raven stopped buttering her toast and looked up from the breakfast table.

“What?”

“There’s been a homicide near Charles’ place.”

What?!”

Raven jumped up and joined Hank in front of the television.

 

(“ identified as a young man by the name of Warren Worthington. Why Worthington happened to be in this particular street of Oxford this night is as yet unknown, since he was a resident of Gloucester and had no known connection to the neighbourhood.”)

 

“I’m gonna call him.”

“Raven, he’s probably not even awake yet.”

Ignoring this remark, Raven snatched up her phone from the breakfast table and selected Charles’ number.

 

(“ neighbours did not hear anything and were shocked to discover ”)

 

“Come on, Charles. Pick up!”

 

(“ woken this morning by a commotion outside and saw all these police cars and an ambulance… Jesus, you don’t expect anything like this to happen right on your doorstep, do you?”)

 

Raven?” Charles’ voice sounded bleary.

“Charles, are you watching the morning news?”

What?... ‘m sleeping, Raven

“Well, wake up! There’s police all over your neighbourhood. Someone has been killed, a young man.”

...”

“Charles?”

...”

“Charles!”

What? Who?

“I don’t know, some bloke. Turn on the telly and you’ll see for yourself. Or just step out the bloody door. It’s right down the street from where you live, police cars everywhere.”

Raven heard hurried rustling on the other end.

“Can’t believe they’re actually showing pictures of the body. I mean, that’s really not… Oh my God!

 

(“ had the word ‘HOMO’ written on his naked back with a marker. This has obviously been a hate crime against ”)

 

“That is sick!

 

(“ not the first one of this kind within the last months, but clearly the most violent ”)

 

“Charles, are you watching this?”

 

(“ shocked to see a crime like this in what had previously been Oxford’s most quiet neighbourhood ”)

 

“Charles?”

 

(“ police urge the population to come forward, should they have any information ”)

 

“Charles, are you OK?”

Yeah… yeah, I’m… fine.”

“Well, sorry to wake you up like this, but bloody hell! And I’ve been teasing you all this time for moving into the most bourgeois neighbourhood you could possibly find. Isn’t that just sick? I mean, who does something like that?”

I… don’t know.”

“Well, anyway, isn’t that exactly what you’ve been writing about?”

...”

“Your study, I mean. Growing prejudice among the population, increasing conservatism, or whatever it is, mounting number of crimes against gay people?”

...”

“Charles?”

I… yeah… you’re right.”

“It’s really terrible. That poor bloke! And nobody even noticed anything!”

Raven? I… I think, I need to use the bathroom now.”

“Oh, OK then. I guess, I’ll talk to you later?”

Yeah, sure. Later... Bye.”

“Bye, Charles.”

 

Hank had switched off the television and sat down at the breakfast table. Raven joined him, agitated.

“It’s true, you know.”

Hank looked up, confused. “What is?”

“Charles has been writing about things like this in his recent study. Erm… the title was something with conservatism.”

“You’ve been reading Charles’ work?” Hank looked surprised.

“Not exactly, no. But I’ve read the abstract and it’s all in there really.”

“If you think so...”

Raven chose to ignore this remark.

“You know who would be very interested in this?”

“Erm...”

“Emma!”

“Emma?”

“She’s been looking for a title story for the next issue and this has happened right around the corner. Maybe she’d like to interview Charles about his study, too, you know. Work it all together. I think I’m gonna call her and suggest it.”

“Raven, it’s Sunday! You can’t call your boss on a Sunday!”

“Says who?”

 

Half an hour later it had all been arranged. Well, pretty much. Raven hadn’t actually asked Charles yet whether he was going to do it, but she couldn’t imagine him declining. It was a subject he really cared deeply about after all, and she had sensed that the news about the homicide had shaken him.

Raven thought she could even be congratulated on getting Erik some work, as Emma had accepted her suggestion of hiring Erik to take pictures of Charles during the interview. Not that Erik wasn’t earning enough as a freelance photographer, but he just didn’t seem to work as much as normal people and, anyway, Raven had been wanting to work with him for a long time. He was one of her best friends after all. Of course, she hadn’t asked him yet, either, but she was sure he would accept.

 

Hank had already finished doing the dishes and cleaning up the remains of their movie night, when Raven finally reached Charles again. She wasted no time in telling him about the interview she had arranged. His reaction, however, was somewhat disappointing.

I don’t know, Raven. What’s the point?”

“What’s the point? What’s the... Charles, the point is informing people about how fucked up this society is. The point is letting people know that homophobia still exists. That’s the bloody point.”

I can’t see how I could… change anything. I don’t think I’m the right person for this.”

“You’re exactly the right person! You’re the one who did all the research on this subject, you know it all! Charles, what’s wrong?”

I… I just… I’m not comfortable with giving an interview about this. I’m…“

“Don’t you want to change anything?”

Of course I do. I...”

“What happened to that Warren kid was a terrible thing and I think we should talk about why it happened. And you’re the best man for it.”

...”

“Did you know that apparently nobody even knew he was gay? Hank read it online. His parents had no idea, his sister had no idea either – it shouldn’t have to be like that, don’t you think?”

...”

“Charles?”

You’re right.” His voice sounded weak and shaky. “I’ll do it.”

“You… You will?”

Yes.” He sounded more certain now. “Just tell me when and where and I’ll be there.”

“Oh, Charles, that’s great! You’re the best! We were thinking tomorrow afternoon. I’ll tell you exactly when and where, when I know more myself.”

 

Raven spent all midday waiting for Erik to switch on his phone. She kept pacing around the living-room until Hank packed up his books to study in the bedroom instead.

The whole project had taken possession of her in a way that not many others had. She didn’t quite know why – she had covered crimes before and some very violent ones at that – but something about this particular case really resonated with her. It felt much closer to her than any other subject she had ever worked on.

Maybe it had to do with Erik being gay. But then – it was hard to imagine Erik ever being attacked like that. Raven was quite certain that, if any attackers ever did come close to Erik, he would just bare his teeth at them and they would take flight immediately. He could be a little scary sometimes, especially when he came across signs of prejudice or discrimination against LGBTQ people. She had actually seen him slashing at a guy once, who they had caught shouting insults at a kissing lesbian couple. It had taken the combining strength of three men to restrain him from beating the guy to a pulp.

Although Raven was not a violent person herself, she absolutely understood where Erik was coming from, and gave him credit for taking action against the injustice instead of condemning him for it.

It was precisely his absolute hatred of anything anti-LGBTQ that made Raven certain he wouldn’t refuse to be a part of the article aiming to inform about existing discrimination and intolerance.

And she was right. Erik accepted right away and seemed so intrigued by the whole project, that she invited him round for tea to talk some more about it.

 

Later that evening, when Raven, Hank and Erik were sitting round the dinner table eating Yorkshire pudding, chicken and peas with gravy, it was Erik who brought up the subject first.

“So this article of yours. Will it be centered around the hate crime that happened last night?”

Raven could tell that the subject was already making him angry again.

“Yes, well, that homicide

“Don’t call it a homicide!”, he interrupted her furiously. “That completely misses the point. This wasn’t random!”

“No,” she agreed, while thumping Hank on the back, who had choked on some peas at Erik’s outburst. “And people need to realize that the problem is real, not just on some paper. That’s why we’re using this hate crime,” she emphasized the words with a meaningful look at Erik, “to make clear that these things may happen anywhere, even in the most boring neighbourhood in Britain, and certainly also where our readers live. Did you know this Warren guy?” she added as an afterthought.

“Why? Because I’m gay?” Erik flared up at once.

“Well, yes,” Raven replied, her eyebrows raised, “I thought you might have met him at some party or club or so.”

“No, I’ve never met him. Apparently he was in the closet, so he would have been careful about going out to clubs and parties,” he grit his teeth angrily. “I don’t have any patience for closeted guys. I’m not ever playing that game, hiding what I did or like to do, just because someone is ashamed of it. I’ll never accept that.”

“Maybe we should talk about something else,” said Hank with a worried look at Erik’s angry face. “Raven, how about you tell Erik what will be expected of him tomorrow. What kind of pictures Emma is looking for?”

“I know that already,” said Erik, shrugging. “Just some photographs of her brother engaging in conversation to illustrate the article, no big deal.”

“And maybe a few portraits would be good as well”, piped up Raven, grinning. “Even if that’s just for his own benefit. I doubt there is one good picture of Charles anywhere.”

“Why?” asked Erik. “Is he that ugly?”

Raven laughed.

“No, I don’t think so. I actually think he could be quite cute if he didn’t dress like an old man. But that’s the problem, see? And I’ve already decided that I’ll be choosing his clothes for him tomorrow, make him feel and look hip, you know. This secluded, single old professor lifestyle needs to stop now.”

She laughed again.

“Maybe we could even present him in a good enough light to make him finally find a girlfriend. I’m done with looking after him.”

“So he’s single?”

“Yeah and I’m not sure whether he’s ever had a real relationship. At least not anyone he thought worthy of presenting to the sister. I think he’s sort of married to his work, you know.”

Erik raised his eyebrows.

Raven smiled and added: “I know what you’re going to say and I wondered that too for a while. But I like to think that we have quite a close relationship and that he would tell me something like that. I think I would actually be quite disappointed if he was gay and had never told me.”

“A cute, intelligent young man who studies how society perceives LGBTQ people and has never had a relationship? Raven, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but men aren’t married to their work. There are needs that work can’t quite satisfy.”

“Oh, I don’t think he’s celibate. No, I actually know that he goes out at night sometimes and returns early in the morning because I caught him at it.”

She grinned.

“And he was really flustered then, so I’m sure he went out looking for sex.”

Erik looked as though he was about to say something, but kept quiet.

“Besides, this study was actually the first one he did on that subject,” Raven went on. “Technically he studies discrimination of all kinds of minorities, mainly racism.”

She cast Erik a glance and, when he remained silent, proceeded:

“And it’s actually not that weird that he doesn’t want a relationship, you know. If you grew up in a household like ours, with a marriage as fucked up as our mother and Kurt’s, well…. I think I’m probably a psychological miracle, being as normal as I am and able to sustain a relationship. And Charles can count himself lucky to only be fucked up in the relationship department,” she added as an afterthought. “Whereas our stepbrother Cain… well, let’s just say he’s unstable.”

“I didn’t know you had another brother. You’ve never mentioned him,” Erik said in surprise.

“Yeah, well, as I said… He’s a nutjob, so I don’t talk about him much. And we barely see each other. Only at Christmas really, or if there’s some other family tosh going on.”

“Anything else I should know about you? Any dark secrets you’ve kept from me all this time I thought I knew you?” Erik teased.

Raven laughed.

“Well, now that you mention it: I’m not actually British.”

“You’re pulling my leg,” said Erik.

“No, I’m not, honest. We moved here from New York about 15 years ago when I was 10 and Charles was 13 years old. When our mother married that bastard Kurt Marko. It was terrible, really. We didn’t want to move here and Cain didn’t want us to come and live with them. He always had some kind of weird phobia of Charles and me messing everything up for them. The Americans destroying his family’s honour and tradition with their strange New World customs or whatever.”

Erik gave her an incredulous look.

“Well, it’s no wonder, really,” Raven continued, “I mean, he’d already spent 15 years in Kurt’s company by then. I probably would have gone mad as well.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Two – Charles

 

The digits on Charles‘ clock radio switched from 06:59 to 07:00 and a song started blaring through the bedroom. In his sleep dazed state, Charles could only make out the words “happy”, “love” and “sunshine.”

With a groan he fumbled for the off-switch, found it, and all was thankfully quiet again.

He fell back into his pillow, covering his face with both hands. He felt like he couldn’t have slept more than an hour. He had been unable to fall asleep last night, thoughts just whirling around in his head without making much sense. At least he felt a little clearer and more focused now.

When he moved his right hand down from his face and laid it on his stomach, he heard paper rustling near his right elbow. He lifted his head an inch to see what had made the noise and saw a little piece of paper, ripped off of a notepad. He picked it up. The name ‘Warren’ was written on it in neat writing, and a phone number.

A number he would never call.

Charles clasped the piece of paper very tightly in his hand, screwed up his eyes and inhaled deeply through his nose.

He couldn’t remember ever feeling more lost and confused. How could this have happened and why? He had sent Warren out on the street to wait for the cab on his own. If only he had overcome his shame for once and called the the taxi directly to his door….

He opened his eyes again, staring blankly at the ceiling.

He hadn’t known anything about Warren, apart from his name, before yesterday. And now there was new information all the time. It unnerved him how similar their situations were: Nobody had known about Warren being gay, his parents were rich, he’d been exactly the same age as Charles, he’d even had a younger sister.

Last night on the news, Warren’s parents had been interviewed. While his mother had seemed sad and distraught, his father’s main concern had apparently been to distance himself from his son and make sure that everyone knew how much he disapproved of his “immoral lifestyle.”

Charles was sure that Kurt’s reaction would be rather similar if it had been him who had died, instead of Warren. However, he doubted his own mother would be as upset as Warren’s. In fact, he thought bitterly, she probably wouldn’t even notice if he was murdered right before her eyes, too drunk to realise anything was happening. And Cain? He would probably mostly be appalled and furious that other people now knew about his stepbrother being gay.

He wondered how Raven would react. Charles imagined that she would be very upset, but probably also extremely disappointed that he had never confided in her. He would have to tell her at some point. He’d rather she learnt it from him than because of some unlucky coincidence. She had already caught him sneaking back home early in the morning a few weeks ago. Back then, he had been almost sure that his cover had been blown, but, most curiously, she hadn’t pressed for any explanation.

No, he would definitely have to tell her soon. He just didn’t know how yet.

He shot a glance at his clock radio. It was 7:13. He should really get going or he would be late for his seminar.

He groaned when he realised that he would probably have to discuss the killing with his students. The title of the seminar was “Openness or conservatism – how tolerant is our society?” and Warren’s murder fit right into their discussion.

He got up, put on his trousers, buttoned up his shirt and pulled his still-fastened cardigan over his head.

He then spotted the tiny piece of paper with Warren’s name and number lying on his blanket again. He picked it up, folded it carefully once and placed it into the drawer of his bedside cabinet. He just couldn’t bring himself to throw it away. It felt like writing his name and number down on this little slip of paper had been Warren’s very last action before he died and Charles didn’t think he could ever destroy it.

 

He went downstairs to make himself some toast before he had to leave, although he didn’t feel very hungry. Every surface in his kitchen shone like it had never done before. Charles had gone into some kind of cleaning frenzy after he had received the news about Warren’s death the day before. It had started with his desire to change the sheets, which had still smelt of sex, but he had been unable to stop afterwards. The clean kitchen was a peculiar sight and hardly felt like his anymore, as there were usually some unwashed dishes or groceries lying around that he had forgotten to put away.

While he listlessly chewed on his piece of toast, his mind got caught on another subject he had so far managed to push aside:

He would have to talk to the police. There was no way around it. He was probably the last person to see Warren alive, apart from the attacker or attackers, and could therefore maybe provide helpful information. Besides, if he didn’t talk to them and they somehow found out he had been with Warren right before the attack, they would probably consider him a suspect. If they didn’t do that anyway.

Charles closed his eyes. He just didn’t think he was ready to be asked questions about how he had met Warren and what they had done that night, especially not by a probing, possibly judgemental police officer.

Would they keep his identity secret if he asked them to? Or would he be outed against his will?

He would have to talk to them this evening after work He had already waited too long. They would surely want to know why he hadn’t come to them straight away.

A glance at the clock told him he was running late.

 

While being stuck in the usual morning traffic, he received a call from Raven, telling him the upcoming interview would take place at their magazine’s studio in a rebuilt old warehouse, at 6pm. When they had said their goodbyes, he hung up and groaned. He had almost forgotten the promise he had made to Raven. An interview, on top of everything. Under usual circumstances he would have been delighted to do it. After all, he thought it was an extremely important subject (not least because it concerned him privately as well) which the population should be informed about. And since he had been working at the university for years, he normally didn’t feel self-conscious about presenting his work or answering questions about it. But this time was different. He felt very nervous about doing the subject justice without revealing his secret double life, or that he had actually known Warren (however shortly) and had been with him the night he died.

As he parked his car and got out, he considered for a moment if maybe this was the right time to tell Raven everything, just in case it was all revealed very soon. But he dismissed the idea very quickly. The interview was already set for this afternoon, it would be far too rushed. No, this needed planning. He couldn’t tell her just like that.

He could almost completely blank out the little voice in his head, repeating the word “coward.”

 

He arrived for class 5 minutes late and found his students already in deep discussion of the homicide. He sat down quietly, not wanting to disrupt the debate.

Well, that’s exactly what I’m saying: How could the attackers have known of his sexual orientation if he was in the closet? I believe they must be part of the gay community,” said Angel.

Come on now, why would they do something like that?” asked Sean incredulously

Maybe they were ashamed of who they are themselves. Maybe it was autoaggression turned outwards. Wouldn’t be the first time.”

I think they were probably just some hate-filled idiots who happened to spot him kissing another guy or something like that,” piped up Kitty.

In that particular neighbourhood? I doubt there’s a gay club within miles of that place,” Alex said.

Kitty rolled her eyes.

Well, gay men are allowed to kiss in other places than gay clubs, you know.”

OK then, where did the other guy go?”

Home? He could live there,” replied Sean.

Darwin shook his head.

Is this really the most important aspect? I think we should discuss why these things still happen in a society as modern as ours and—”

Well, I think it’s important to know who did this if you want to understand why this happened and ultimately where we’re going wrong as a society,” said Kitty.

But we don’t know that, do we? And speculation won’t get us any further.”

Where we’re going wrong? Personally, I feel it’s a real shame he thought he had to keep quiet about his sexuality in the first place,” Angel remarked.

I’m mostly concerned by the fact that allegedly nobody heard or saw anything. I mean, it was a warm night. People must have had their bedroom windows open,” said Darwin.

Yeah, we just don’t give a fuck about what happens to anyone else, do we? As long as our own lives aren’t affected,” added Alex angrily.

There was a general murmur of agreement.

Professor Xavier, what do you think?”

 

Charles somehow managed to get through almost 90 minutes of discussing Warren’s murder without breaking down or having to leave, but it was a close shave.

When finally the last student had left the room, he slumped down onto a chair, rubbing his eyes.

It was only 9:30 and he already felt thoroughly worn out. He thought if he could only get through the interview and the conversation with the police, maybe he would feel better and could carry on with his normal life, but right now….

 

He had almost reached his office, when his colleague stopped him in the hallway.

Charles, you look terrible!”

Well, thank you, Moira.”

I’m serious. Are you ill? Are you sure you should be at work?”

She looked at him, very worried.

Honestly, you look like you belong in bed. Do you have a temperature? Do you need to see a doctor?”

No, I don’t need a doctor—”

Well, I think you should go home and go to bed at the very least. Do you want me to take you?”

No, I’m…” He made up his mind. There it was: an excuse, ready-made. “You’re right. I better go home and get some rest. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Are you sure, you don’t want me to—”

No, I’ll be fine, thanks.”

 

He knew he should really be using his time off to do something important, like calling the police. Instead, he turned on the television as soon as he got home and sat down on the sofa, a glass of scotch in his hand.

He drained the glass in one gulp, grimaced, then leant back, closing his eyes.

Meaningless babble filled his ears as he was finally able to nod off.

 

When he woke again, it was 1pm and the news was on. They were once more talking about the homicide. It seemed like there was no escaping it.

 

(“The police received information from a resident who saw a man lurking around the street about 45 minutes before the victim was discovered.”)

 

The video cut to a man with broad shoulders and sideburns. The caption read ‘Superintendent J. Howlett.’

Charles’ heart skipped a beat. So Logan was responsible for Warren’s case. He could have laughed in relief. Logan would understand. Logan would be able to protect his identity.

 

(“The man we are looking for is between the ages of 28 and 35, wears his hair very short and has been described as ‘tall’ and ‘bulky.’ If you have seen someone fitting this description near the crime scene in the night from Saturday to Sunday, please contact us.”)

 

Charles switched off the television, fumbled for his phone and called Logan’s number immediately.

It hadn’t even rung twice when a voice answered.

Chuck?”

Logan!”

Are you OK? I’m at work, you know.”

Yes, I know. This is about work. I… I’ve just seen you on the news. You’re working on that homicide.”

Yes?… Did you see anything?”

No…. Well, yes, actually, but not the man you are looking for. It’s more… Logan, can we meet and talk about this in person?”

Sure, bub. But can’t you give me a clue what this is about?”

Look, I… Warren, the victim, he… He was with me before he died. That’s why he was in this neighbourhood.”

When you say ‘was with you’, do you mean—”

Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.”

He heard Logan inhale deeply.

Right…. Are you OK?”

I… yes, I am.”

When could I talk to you? This afternoon?”

Yeah, that would be— Oh no, hang on.” He had just remembered the interview again. “No, that’s not possible, sorry.”

Tomorrow then?”

Yes, definitely.”

5pm?”

Sounds good. At my place?”

I’ll be there.”

Good. See you then.”

See you, Chuck.”

 

Charles sighed. He felt relieved to finally be doing something. A considerable weight had already been lifted off of his shoulders by sharing his secret with Logan. It would be good talking it all over with him. And Logan knew all about his secret double life already, so he didn’t have to keep anything quiet.

He and Logan had met three years previously at a gay club. They had got on really well from the start, had then met a few more times, and had then started something like a relationship. This, however, hadn’t worked out. Logan had been driven half mad by having to keep everything quiet and secret. So they had broken up, but remained friends ever since. Although Logan himself was out and proud, he had never judged Charles for remaining in the closet. He had even helped him a few times when his secret had almost been discovered by Raven.

Charles knew that, if he asked him to, Logan would do all he could to protect his secret from being revealed. He was therefore much less worried now than he had been only 10 minutes ago.

In fact, he felt so much better, he even felt hungry, so he went into the kitchen to make himself some lunch.

 

At about 4:30pm his doorbell rang.

Raven. What are you doing here?”

She gave him a radiant smile and stretched out her hand.

Good afternoon. I’m your new personal stylist. I heard you’ve got an interview coming up shortly during which photos will be taken and I am here to advise you on what to wear.”

Yeah, very funny. I can pick out my own clothes, thanks.”

Raven pushed past him into the house and turned around to look at him, grinning.

Sure you can. I mean, you’re obviously dressed very well right now and not at all like an old man. By the way, how do you survive wearing this thing,” she said, pointing at his cardigan, “in this warm weather? I would die of heat.”

Charles closed the front door and followed her into the living-room, choosing to ignore the question.

So, what were you thinking of wearing?” asked Raven.

I don’t know. This, I guess.” He pulled at his cardigan.

No, you won’t,” Raven said brightly. “Show me what else you’ve got, come on.”

She dragged him upstairs into the bedroom and started pulling clothes out of his wardrobe, holding them up one by one and eyeing them critically.

Charles had long since decided that it was no use trying to stop Raven if she had got something into her head, so he let her proceed.

Try these on,” she said finally, shoving a light blue shirt and a pair of dark jeans at him. Both were clothes he usually wore when he went out at night.

He went into the bathroom and put them on, examining himself in the mirror. Both the shirt and the jeans were rather tight and showed off his body. He felt very self-conscious appearing in front of Raven like that. It felt like revealing a part of him that he had been keeping secret.

You’ve been hiding some arse, dear brother!”

Raven, don’t make this awkward, please.”

Raven laughed.

Well, you’re looking good. The shirt really brings out your eyes. I don’t understand why you never wear these, but choose to look like someone’s grandfather instead. Keep them on for the interview, will you?” She added, as she walked out of his bedroom and began descending the stairs. “I will see you at the old warehouse in,” she checked her watch, “50 minutes. Don’t be late!”

Chapter Text

Chapter Three – Erik

 

Erik was driving to the old warehouse Raven had directed him to.

He turned the radio on while he waited at a traffic light. They were talking about the hate crime again. In general Erik thought it was a good thing that this was being discussed, but too often he didn’t like the way it was being addressed at all. This time they were interviewing some self-proclaimed expert again.

 

(“It’s obvious to me that the young man was in this particular street because of some kind of sexual encounter. I don’t see how it could be any different. I think, most homosexual men live a very risky life and something like this probably has to be expected at some point.”

What do you mean?” asked the interviewer.

Well, if you go home with total strangers every other night, at some point you will run across someone who doesn’t have your best interest at heart—”)

 

Erik switched his radio off again, furious.

Fuck. You. Bloody straight people,” he growled.

It was infuriating. This crime should have opened people’s eyes that violence against LGBTQ people was a real issue and that tolerance, in general, was too low among wide parts of the population. But instead, most reports concerned themselves with the apparently ‘dangerous lifestyle’ of gay men, implying that it had actually been the young man’s own fault that he had been killed.

Erik sincerely hoped that Raven’s brother was different. He didn’t think he could sit through half an hour of someone talking nonsense like that without getting aggressive.

 

He arrived at the address Raven had given him at 5:45pm. It was indeed an old warehouse, but had obviously been renovated and rebuilt in places.

Erik took all his equipment out of his boot and carried it inside. He quickly found the studio, located in what evidently had once been a big storeroom. He put down his camera bag, tripod, and flash unit and let his gaze wander through the room.

He could honestly say that he liked it. It was a huge room with a ceiling so high, one could easily have fit an average-sized detached house into it. The walls were brick and raw metal pillars stabilised the whole construction. There was barely any furniture, only two comfortable-looking, modern sofas stood facing each other in a corner, a coffee table in between, and a big green screen had been mounted on the opposite side of the room. Erik thought this place could be fantastic for an artistic photo shoot, or maybe a fashion shoot. Maybe he should ask Raven whether he could rent it for a few days at some point if he had a fitting idea for a new project.

Erik!”

Raven appeared from behind the screen, waving at him. She was followed by a tall, blonde woman.

Erik, this is Emma, my boss. Emma: Erik, the photographer.”

Erik stretched out his hand. “Pleased to meet you.”

She took it. “Likewise.”

He saw her eyes wander over his body, coming to rest on his mouth and her lips form a flirtatious smile.

Raven, you never told me your friend was this good-looking. If I had known, I would have hired him much sooner.”

Raven grinned, barely holding back a laugh. Emma continued: “So, Erik, tell me, what do you usually do?”

She stood far too close for Erik’s liking.

I take photographs,” he answered shortly.

Emma laughed affectedly.

Of course. And I bet they’re really good, too.”

They’re alright. Excuse me, I need to set up my equipment.”

Oh, of course. Don’t let me keep you.”

He strode off, throwing an annoyed look at Raven, who grinned back. Hopefully she would tell her boss that he was gay and therefore not interested in the slightest, but he didn’t think she would. He had got the impression that she found the whole situation very amusing. Well, if this Emma kept flirting with him like that he would have to tell her himself. It would serve Raven right if he embarrassed her boss like that.

While he assembled everything he would need later, Raven made tea and Emma looked through her notes.

When he finished, he sat down on one of the sofas and folded his arms, waiting.

At 6:05pm, Emma glanced at her watch.

Is your brother always late?”

Often, yes.” Raven grimaced. “But I hoped he would be punctual today. Do you want me to call him?”

Oh no, we can wait. I mean, we’re really comfortable here, aren’t we?”

She threw Erik another flirtatious look. Annoyance crept up inside him again. He shot another angry look at Raven. He couldn’t stand this.

I’ll need to use the facilities, if you’ll excuse me.”

 

Out in the hallway he almost collided with a young man about a head shorter than he was.

Sorry,” they both said automatically.

This had to be Raven’s brother. His eyes were very blue.

You’re Charles?”

Yes, sorry I’m late.”

Don’t worry about it. I’m Erik, the photographer.”

They shook hands.

With one look Erik took in his soft brown hair, freckles and red lips as well as his very well fitting shirt and jeans. He liked what he saw. And he also noticed how Charles had given him exactly the same look. He knew one thing for sure: Raven was clearly wrong in thinking her brother was straight.

He felt another rush of annoyance. So this guy couldn’t even admit to his sister that he was gay, as though it was something shameful. He suddenly wished he hadn’t accepted the job offer. He could hardly stand looking at Charles without getting angry again.

Excuse me,” he muttered and pushed past Charles, who looked surprised and slightly confused.

 

In the bathroom Erik walked to the sink, turned on the tap and splashed cold water into his face. He didn’t understand why he was this angry. Normally, if he encountered a closeted guy, he would just not bother with him and that was it. Maybe it was because Charles was Raven’s brother. Raven was his friend after all. Or maybe his mood had simply been spoilt already by that stupid radio interview and Raven’s boss trying to flirt with him. That must be it, but he would have to calm down now, or he would be unable to concentrate and do his job properly.

 

When he reentered the studio, Charles had already sat down opposite Emma. Raven stood next to him, fussing with his hair.

Erik switched on his camera, getting Charles into focus. Looking through the lens, he noticed again how very handsome Charles was. He quickly glanced away, angry with himself. He had to stay focussed. This was his job and he had to act like the professional that he was.

 

Ready to go?” asked Emma, looking first at Charles and then at Erik. Both nodded.

Right then. I’m going to record this, if that’s alright with you?” She looked inquiringly at Charles.

Sure, go ahead,” he replied, appearing a little nervous nevertheless.

Emma placed her recorder on the coffee table between the sofas and began:

So, lets start with some personal information, shall we?”

Do you want me to—”

Yes, please. We need to get all the information correct.”

OK…. Erm…. I’m Charles Xavier, 28 years old, and I am a professor at the University of Oxford. I have doctor’s degrees in Genetics, Psychology and Anthropology and am currently studying the British society’s perception of minorities.”

And your recent study—”

My recent study titled ‘Conservatism and homophobia in modern Britain – a step backwards’ is concerned with the way our modern society perceives homosexual people…. Well, actually, all people within the LGBT community.”

 

While Charles answered Emma’s questions about his work, Erik concentrated on getting good, expressive photos of Charles engaging in conversation. However, every now and again, he caught himself losing focus and watching and listening to Charles intently. For once, the subject was being given its appropriate attention and perspective. A few times his anger rose again, but it didn’t have anything to do with Charles as a person, but with what he said:

 

I’ll just give you a few numbers if that’s alright?”

Sure,” replied Emma.

Charles consulted his notes.

We asked 3,000 people some questions anonymously about how they perceive LGBT people and 40% of the people we asked, stated that they find it disgusting to see two people of the same gender kissing. 25% of the people we asked, declared that they perceive homosexuality as immoral and 36% said that they don’t think people of the same gender should be allowed to get married.”

 

They continued to discuss the elevating numbers of hate crimes against LGBT people. Erik was glad to hear that there was no trace in Charles’ illustrations of it being in any way the LGBT people’s fault. But then, he was gay himself after all.

 

What I find very noteworthy,” said Charles, “is that all over the Western world our laws are getting more liberal. Within the last year, same sex marriage has been legalized in several countries, for instance. LGBT people are slowly gaining more rights in many parts of the Western world. However, tolerance is declining and people’s opinions are getting more conservative.”

Why do you think this is happening?”

Well, I can only speak of Britain here, although I think this applies to most Western countries. But we’re observing this trend not only relating to LGBT people but to all kinds of minorities. Racism is growing, and so is mistrust of people of other faiths. It seems like people are afraid of everything that differs in any way from the traditional British lifestyle. Globalisation, and the liberalisation it entails, puts into question how people, who have been living traditionally for generations, live their lives. The globalised world favours a modern lifestyle over a traditional one and therefore these people feel threatened.”

He hesitated, then went on.

This is just my personal opinion and not at all scientifically verified, but I suppose many people just live their lives the way their parents did without questioning whether it is actually what they want. And now someone else comes along and calls it all into question by living their life completely differently. But considering this different lifestyle an actual alternative could mean admitting to yourself that your own life is not going the way you want it to go. And many people just aren’t ready to do that and go for the defensive position instead.

That is actually a very well known psychological phenomenon. If a person holds conflicting values or beliefs or notices that their actions don’t match their beliefs, this creates an uncomfortable feeling called ‘cognitive dissonance.’ And this person will then try to reduce this feeling by adapting their values, so there is no conflict.”

Could you elaborate on that?”

Well, very often we use a fable to illustrate this phenomenon in which a fox sees some grapes hanging high up in a tree. He tries to reach them because he would like to eat them, but as he realises he won’t be able to get to them, he tells himself that they are probably too sour to eat anyway.

Now imagine a man living an ordinary life: He’s married with children, goes to work every day, the usual. He is then confronted with the fact that in our modern society it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way. He doesn’t have to get married anymore if he doesn’t want to, he doesn’t have to have children , he can choose to look after his children while his wife earns the money, he could choose to be with a man instead of a woman, he could even change his gender if he wanted to.

Now, let’s get back to the fable.

All those possibilities are basically the delicious looking grapes on the tree of modern society, but many people are very stuck in their traditional lifestyle, living the way it is expected of them by their family, friends and so on. So they don’t see themselves as being able to reach those grapes. The prospect is absolutely impossible. So they tell themselves that they don’t want it anyway, that it’s immoral and bad, that the grapes are sour.”

Are you saying that all these people who hold anti-LGBT views are secretly gay?”

Charles laughed.

No, that’s not what I’m saying. I gave many examples as to what modern society offers and a person may just feel intrigued by one of those possibilities, but consider all of them immoral if they can’t fulfill their desire. That is to say: There are lots of grapes and a person may just want to eat one particular one of them, but as they can’t reach it, they declare all the grapes sour.”

Charles inhaled deeply.

I’m sorry. I think I may have gotten a bit carried away here. And as I said: This is just my personal take on the situation.”

 

Erik noticed he hadn’t taken a single picture for quite a while. He had been completely taken in by Charles and what he had said. He had to admit that he was impressed. Charles sure knew what he was talking about.

A new pang of annoyance followed that thought. Charles was a real hypocrite. How could he think and talk like this without finding the guts himself to be honest. He kept talking about how people were too afraid to be different, yet he himself was too much of a coward to even tell his sister.

He saw Charles shoot him a worried look and realised that his teeth were gritted and his fists clenched. He tried to relax. This was work, he had to control himself.

 

So, I guess that was it,” said Emma, business-like, packing up her notes, “or is there anything else?”

Yes!” Raven chimed in. “Portraits!”

What?” said Charles in surprise, “you didn’t say—”

Erik, where do you want him?”

 

They ended up positioning Charles in front of one of the brick walls. Erik, working very hard on keeping his temper in check, managed to get some very promising shots. Charles was a very handsome man after all, even if he might be a terrible hypocrite. Erik actually had to admit that he was looking forward to selecting and editing the photos later.

 

Very good,” said Emma, looking over his shoulder. “I like those. Well, I should get going. It was a pleasure talking to you, Charles. Erik,” she gave him another flirtatious smile, “I’m looking forward to seeing those pictures and I hope to work with you again very soon.”

They’ll be ready by Wednesday at the latest,” Erik told her before she left. If he was to work with her again, he would definitely have to talk to her about being gay first.

 

Erik packed up his equipment and he, Raven and Charles left the building. When Raven had locked the massive doors, she asked Charles: “Would you like to come to my place for dinner? Hank is making lasagna.”

You just want a lift home,” Charles replied, but he was smiling.

Well, true. But you also know that Hank’s lasagne is the best, so there’s something in it for you, too. So, can I tempt you?”

Charles laughed.

Yes, I think you can.”

It was obvious to Erik that they were indeed very close and his impression was confirmed when Raven threw an arm around Charles and gave him a tight squeeze.

I’m proud of you, you know. That was brilliant. Very eloquent,” she added with a teasing grin.

Charles snorted.

Raven turned to Erik. “How about you? Would you like to come? Hank always makes enough lasagna to feed the whole neighbourhood. And it’s beef,” she added as an afterthought, clearly remembering his being Jewish.

Sounds enticing, but I think I’d rather get home and start working on these.”

He held up his camera.

OK then. I’ll see you soon, I expect.”

Definitely. I’ll tell you when I’m finished. Have a nice evening,” he added, nodding at Charles.

Thank you. You too,” said Charles, looking slightly confused.

Raven linked arms with her brother, waved at Erik, and they left.

 

Back in his apartment, Erik went straight to his computer and imported the photos into his editing programme. He was very happy with the way they had turned out. The interview photos reflected very well how passionately Charles was talking about the subject and the portraits.…

Erik almost got lost in the deep blue of Charles’ eyes. The pictures were perfect. Whatever grudge he was holding against Charles for being a filthy hypocrite, Erik found himself imagining photographing him in other places, considering how he could bring out the blue of his eyes even more, how he could emphasise the freckles on his cheeks.

When his mind started to wander towards a Charles in a very different situation, blue eyes looking intently at him, red lips slightly opened, a freckled hand clasping a sheet, he had to stop himself.

There were so many reasons not to go down that road, the most important of which being his principles. No closeted guys. It just wasn’t worth the stress and the anger. And Charles, over and above that, was Raven’s brother, and she didn’t even know about his being gay.

 

It was past midnight when Erik finally switched off the computer, but he didn’t feel like going to bed. He felt inexplicably horny. He considered quickly jerking off in the shower, but then realised he was craving human closeness and intimacy.

It had been quite some time since he had picked up someone at a gay bar, but he felt that tonight this was exactly what he needed.

He quickly changed into tighter clothes he thought looked especially good on him and left.

 

When he entered the bar, he let his gaze wander. There were maybe 25 men here. He eyed them all one by one, sizing them up. Lastly his gaze reached two men sitting at the bar in conversation. One of them had long, black hair and was possibly Spanish and the other….

Erik shook his head. He couldn’t quite believe it.

Chapter Text

Chapter Four – Charles

 

“Hank, you make the best bloody lasagna in the whole world,” Raven said through a mouth full of food.

Charles raised his eyebrows.

“Raven, don’t talk with your mouth full, please.”

“Sorry, dad.”

Charles ignored her and turned to look at Hank.

“This really is exceptionally good though, Hank.”

Hank nodded his thanks.

 

It made a nice change not having to eat dinner on his own for once. Hank was a terrific cook, and although Raven got on his nerves quite often and had manners like a drunk sailor, he did love her dearly and enjoyed her company most of the time.

Once they had all finished eating and felt almost uncomfortably full, they dragged themselves over to the sofa, put on an old record of the Doors, and slumped down, each with a glass of red wine in their hands.

Charles almost wished he didn’t have to go home soon. Going home would probably mean starting to think about what had happened again, when at the moment he felt so incredibly relaxed.

Although…. There was something that was bothering him.

 

“Raven?”

“Hmm?”

She had her head on Hank’s shoulder and her eyes closed.

“This Erik…. He’s a colleague of yours, isn’t he?”

“No, he’s freelance. He was only hired for this interview.”

She yawned.

“OK…. But you know him quite well, right? I mean, you invited him for dinner.”

“Yeah, he’s a friend of mine. I met him two years ago at the Pride parade.”

“You went to the Pride parade?”

“Yep. It’s fun. You should try it.”

Charles didn’t quite know how to respond to this.

Raven sat up and looked at him.

“Why?”

“Nothing. It’s just…. I don’t think he liked me very much.”

“Oh, don’t worry. He doesn’t like anyone very much.”

“So, he’s always this… grumpy?”

Raven laughed.

“Most of the time, yeah. But he’s got a heart of gold. I think he might have been especially grumpy because of the subject today actually,” Raven added thoughtfully. “He’s gay, you know, and he’s a firm supporter of LGBTQ rights and equality. So the whole talk might have pissed him of a little. And he’s been known to get… well… sort of aggressive when he has to witness any sort of anti-LGBTQ behaviour.”

“He takes some getting used to,” Hank chimed in. “But then he’s alright.”

“I think he’s had quite a difficult life,” said Raven pensively. “I don’t know any details, because he doesn’t really talk about it, but I think his parents died when he was quite young and then he moved from Germany to Britain— It can’t have been easy for him.”

Why did he move here when his parents died?”

I don’t know. I never asked. I guess it was probably because he was taken in by some relation who lived here. He once mentioned an aunt who was apparently very strictly Jewish and would always watch him very closely to see if he would break any rules. Maybe he lived with her? I don’t know.”

So, he’s Jewish?”

Yeah, he is. But I think he’s rather lax in his faith.”

“Do you see him a lot?” asked Charles.

“Fairly often, yeah. We go for a drink maybe once a week and we sometimes have him over for dinner. Why are you asking all this?”

She looked slightly suspicious.

“Well, I’m interested in your social life, aren’t I? I know hardly any of your friends apart from Hank.”

“If you went out with me more, you probably would know more of them. It’s not my fault you never leave the house.”

“No, I guess not….”

A sudden thought struck him.

“Raven, did you tell him anything bad about me?”

“What would that be?”

“I don’t know. Anything that would turn him against me.”

Raven gave him an exasperated look.

“He’s not turned against you. That’s just what he’s like. And in any case, what do you care? You’re probably never going to see him again anyway.”

“Why not? He’s your friend after all. I might meet him again.”

“Charles, why is it so important whether he likes you or not?”

“Well, I…. I don’t want your friends to dislike me.”

Raven raised her eyebrows.

 

A short while later Hank suggested they could play a few rounds of skat and so they played, until Raven realised with a little shriek that it was almost a quarter to midnight and she’d have to get up at 6 the next morning.

They said goodnight and Charles left, stepping outside and walking towards his car. He shivered a little as he was only wearing his shirt and didn’t have his cardigan with him.

He opened the car door, sat down in the driver’s seat and backed out of the parking place to drive home. However, when he reached the dimly lit street he thought better of it.

He didn’t feel like going home and couldn’t imagine being alone tonight. He craved human contact and closeness and – he could hardly admit it to himself – sex. He felt ashamed of himself that, only two nights after Warren had been killed, the desire was back.

It felt indecent to even think of sex right now, but here he was, driving not back home but towards a gay bar he knew existed, but he had never been to because he’d felt it was too close to his home and the university.

He’d always been very careful about the bars and clubs he chose to go to. Most of the time he‘d rather drive 45 minutes to the next town than risk running into a student or someone else he knew in Oxford. There was really only one gay bar in town which he went to regularly because he enjoyed the atmosphere so much. It had been there that he had picked up Warren last Saturday. He knew he should really stop going to this particular bar, as he had noticed recently that Cain seemed to have made himself at home in the pub right around the corner, where Charles had spotted him smoking in front of the door a few times on his way to the bar. Whenever he’d noticed that Cain was there, he had been extra careful of course, but the risk of Cain spotting Charles going into or coming out of a gay bar was just too high. No, it would be better if Charles stuck to bars and clubs outside of Oxford from now on even if it was a longer journey.

But today it was already too late to drive that far and the bar he had chosen was far away from Cain’s favourite pub. Besides, it was Monday evening and he had a lecture scheduled for 8am tomorrow, so the risk of running into one of his students was rather low.

 

He entered the bar and spotted at once that a man was sitting alone at the counter. His hair was dark and long and he looked rather handsome. He would definitely do, thought Charles and walked towards him.

“Hey, can I join you?”

The man looked up at him and nodded.

“I’m Charles,” said Charles, sitting down and stretching out his hand.

The man shook it.

“Janos,” he said.

“So, can I get you a drink?

It turned out Janos was rather taciturn. Charles felt like he was having a conversation mainly with himself. Just when he started considering whether this might not actually be worth it, he heard another voice.

Hello Charles.”

Charles froze in shock, thinking someone he knew must have recognised him. He turned around.

It was Erik.

Fancy meeting you here,” he said with a slightly mocking smile. Before Charles could respond, he went on. “Nevermind. I know why I’m here and I guess you’re here for the same reason.”

Erik threw Charles a challenging look as though daring him to contradict him.

I guess...” Charles said weakly. There really was no point pretending.

Erik looked at Janos.

Do you mind?”

Janos shrugged, got up and walked away.

Erik took his seat, glancing after him.

Not too keen, was he?”

Charles didn’t reply. He was waiting for what was going to happen next.

Erik looked at him intently.

Did you really think I didn’t know you were gay right from the moment I met you? Honestly, that look you gave me…. Well, it wasn’t exactly subtle.”

Charles felt a blush creep up on his cheek.

I didn’t think…. I wouldn’t have…. I didn’t know you were Raven’s friend.” He finished feebly.

Charles thought he saw the same anger rise again in Erik’s eyes that he had seen earlier after the interview. He saw Erik inhale deeply in an obvious attempt to calm himself.

She talks about you very often,” he said after a short pause. “Raven, I mean. You seem to mean a lot to her.”

Well, we’re quite close. She means a lot to me as well. Did she get you the job today?”

Erik nodded. “She thought it would interest me.”

Charles couldn’t quite believe that they were sitting here, having a normal conversation. He had been quite sure that Erik hated him for some reason.

And did it?” He asked. “Interest you,” he added when Erik looked at him.

It did,” said Erik. “It’s a very important subject to me.”

Charles saw him clench his fists and grit his teeth.

All this intolerance, hate, and injustice needs to stop,” he growled.

Injustice?” asked Charles.

Oh yes. Don’t you see it?”

I don’t—”

They’re never punished as severely as they should be. That is, if they’re punished at all. The police are a bunch of homophobes as well, so these bastards get away scot-free most of the time.”

Charles was about to interject that a gay friend of his was a policeman, but thought better of it. Erik seemed quite furious already, so he wasn’t going to enrage him further by contradicting him. Erik went on:

I’m telling you, if one of those scumbags got a friend of mine, someone I really cared about, I wouldn’t rest until I’d found them and had broken every single bone in their body. I would make sure they’d never get to enjoy their life again.”

Charles didn’t say anything.

What?” asked Erik in a challenging tone.

Nothing. I just…. I don’t approve of violence.”

Erik looked at him in disbelief.

Charles, they are the violent ones. They beat up, maim, and sometimes kill our people. They deserve to be treated just the way they treat us.”

So, you really want to descend to their level? I believe we’re better than that. You are better than that.”

Erik snorted.

You’re just afraid to take action. We have to support and protect each other, Charles.”

Well, I wouldn’t want any of my friends to take action if anything like that ever happened to me. I wouldn’t want them to become criminals on my account.”

It wouldn’t be a crime, it would be justice.”

It’s a crime by definition, Erik. Self-administered justice is illegal, so it’s still a crime, however deserved it may be.”

Erik shook his head angrily, but didn’t say anything. He seemed to consider something. After a moment, he asked tensely:

Why have you never told Raven? She’s one of the most open-minded people I know. She wouldn’t mind in the slightest.”

I don’t know…. I guess I was always just too—”

Too much of a coward?” suggested Erik through gritted teeth.

Charles felt hurt, but also slightly defiant.

You know what? You don’t know me at all. I don’t owe you any explanation about why I have or haven’t told anyone anything—”

You’re a hypocrite, Charles, and I think you know it.” Erik had actually stood up now, his face very close to Charles’, speaking in a very quiet but tense voice. “You’re perfectly fine sitting on a comfortable sofa talking about how bad it is that people can’t accept diversity, and at the same time you lie and you pretend just so everyone thinks you are one of the normal people as well.”

Charles stared at him in horror, but Erik went on.

You see? It’s people like you who support and nurture anti-LGBTQ views through their shame and self-hatred, because you are upholding and representing the belief that being gay is something people should feel ashamed about—”

I don’t have to listen to this!”

Charles had stood up now, too. He noticed that the other people in the bar were staring at them. He lowered his voice, which was trembling slightly.

If that’s what you think, fine, but I won’t—”

He broke off, glaring at Erik, then turned around and left as quickly as he could.

 

He was still fuming when he reached his car, and his hands shook in anger so much that it took him three attempts to open the door. Once he had managed, he sat down, gripping the steering wheel very tightly.

He breathed in and out, his heart pounding furiously. Erik had met him twice today and already he thought he could judge him like that. What did Erik know about his reasons for keeping silent? He could talk. Obviously there was nobody in Erik’s life who would pass judgement on him. And anyway, he was just a stranger. What did it matter what Erik thought of him?

But then…. Why did it matter to him so much?

Charles loosened his grip and let his hands sink into his lap. If he was honest with himself, he knew exactly why he was this upset. It was because Erik had vocalised what Charles himself had been feeling for a while now, even if he had so far been able to suppress those thoughts most of the time.

Erik was right. He, Charles, was a coward and a hypocrite.

He wished it was different, but it was the truth. And he further had to admit to himself that he envied Erik for his openness and freedom. What a joy it would be to be able to be in a relationship, to go out together, hold hands, even kiss in public. Wouldn’t it be wonderful not to be ashamed for once, or scared? Not to leave in the middle of the night so nobody would see him, but stay until morning, then have breakfast together. It seemed like an unachievable dream to him and yet Erik was living it.

Erik wasn’t ashamed. He was free to do as he pleased, to kiss whomever he liked, go out with any man he wanted to share his time with.

Unnoticed, Charles had begun picturing himself with Erik, going out, holding hands. Erik kissing him gently, his left hand in Charles’ hair, his right hand wandering down towards—

When Charles realised what he was thinking, he shook his head violently. What was he doing? Erik clearly despised him. There was no way that anything was going to happen between them. And besides, he had to pull himself together. What use was there in dreaming about a life he knew he couldn’t have.

Charles put his key into the ignition lock and turned it.

 

Back at home, he stepped into the shower. He had left from the bar without doing what he had planned to do, but that didn’t mean that the desire had disappeared. As hot water ran down his back, he stroked his lower stomach with his right hand, trying to get rid of the image of Erik’s face, but soon resigning to the fact that no other fantasy was able to push it away.

Well, it wasn’t as though Erik would ever know.

But if he found out, would he be enraged? Would he push Charles against the wall with his whole body, kissing him furiously? Would he then fumble impatiently for the button and zip of Charles’ trousers, reaching inside?

Charles propped himself up against the wall with his left hand, while his right hand reached downwards. He was already brick hard and panting. He began stroking himself slowly.

The fantasy changed. He imagined stroking Erik’s length now and saw Erik’s face in his mind: His breath quickening, his mouth opening, his eyes looking at Charles intently. While Charles stroked himself more firmly, he pictured the noises Erik would make. He imagined how he would exhale loudly, his breathing soon turning into a moan. And then, as Charles quickened the pace of his own hand, he saw Erik screw up his eyes, clench his teeth and inhale sharply—

Charles slumped down in the shower, breathing heavily. After a moment, he turned around to sit down on the now warm tiles, leaning his back against the wall, and let the water wash away the mess he had made.

His orgasm had hit him quicker and more intense than he could remember it happening in a long time. He felt lightheaded and a little ashamed of himself.

As he rubbed himself dry with his towel and got into bed, he successfully kept himself from reflecting too much on why this particular simple fantasy had given him more pleasure than he’d felt it in ages.

Chapter Text

Chapter Five – Logan

 

"Damn!"

Logan kicked the metal waste-paper basket so hard it flew across his office, scattering paper everywhere and hitting the opposite wall with a loud crash.

His colleague Azazel stuck his head through the door.

"Easy, Tiger."

Logan threw him an angry look and slumped down in his office chair, his fists clenched.

Azazel entered the office, a large envelope in his hand.

"No luck then?" he asked sympathetically.

Logan shook his head.

"Another fucking false lead," he growled. "That suspect was in London last weekend, in a strip club all night with his mates. I just talked to some of the dancers and they confirmed it."

"Those girls that just left?" asked Azazel.

Logan nodded and Azazel chuckled.

"Well, you might want to calm down a bit then, unless you want to scare the shit out of them."

Logan banged his fist on the desk, furiously.

"I was so damn sure it was him! Not to mention that I would have loved to get him for something anyway. Fucking homophobe, and a racist to boot."

"So, back to the start then? No promising leads?"

"Well, the forensic lab is still analysing DNA samples found on the body and is planning to compare them with the criminal database, so I'm hoping that they'll find something we can work with. But until then,” Logan grit his teeth in frustration, “no fucking leads.”

"What about your other source? The guy who spent the night with him?"

"I'll be seeing him this evening, but he already said that he didn't see the guy."

Azazel shook his head.

"I honestly don't get why you're keeping his identity secret."

Logan looked at him.

"I wouldn't expect you to understand. You don't know what it's like. He's not out and he hasn't done anything wrong, so all I'm doing is respecting his privacy."

"If he hasn't done anything wrong."

Logan rounded on him: "What do you mean?"

"Well, I think it's a bit strange that the victim was waiting at that bus stop alone after he had spent some cozy hours with your secret informant. Why didn't he wait at his home? Or why didn't your guy at least accompany him?"

"I told you. He's in the closet. I haven't talked to him about that yet, but I'm sure he was trying not to attract any attention. And anyway, what would his motive be?"

Azazel shrugged.

"What do I know? Jealousy? It's the most common motive."

Logan shook his head.

"I'm telling you: He didn't do it. And I don't think what you're saying makes any sense either. Why would he do it out on the street at a bus stop where anyone could have seen him? And besides, you're forgetting the writing on the victim's back. This was a homophobic hate crime, nothing to do with jealousy."

"If he's in the closet—”

That doesn’t mean that he hates being gay or hates gay men. In fact, I know he doesn’t. Look,” he added with a sigh as he saw Azazel open his mouth to object, “there’s absolutely nothing that ties him to the crime. I’m talking to him later to see if he has any valuable information on the victim or if he remembers anything else of importance, but that’s it. We should concentrate on finding the tall and bulky young man the witness described. I’m sure that’s our guy, I just know it is.”

Logan glanced at the large envelope in Azazel’s hand.

What’s that?”

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot,” said Azazel, handing it over to Logan. “This is the final report from forensic medicine. Maybe there’s some interesting stuff in there? Anyway, I better get going. See you at lunch?”

Yeah, see you,” said Logan distractedly, already tearing the envelope open.

He pulled out a sheet of paper and started to read.

The further his eyes glided down the page, the more desperately furious he got. Four broken ribs, left arm fractured in three places, shattered jaw, cracked skull, torn liver, broken spine, severe internal bleeding.... The list seemed to go on forever. There were so many deadly injuries, the coroner hadn't even been able to determine which of them had actually killed the victim.

Logan felt sick. How angry must the attacker have been? Had Warren provoked him somehow? Could sheer homophobia really be the only motive? The severity of the injuries suggested rage at a level that was usually not found in random attacks. Experience told him that, if an attacker lost it like that, there was usually some personal connection between them and the victim. But then, why in this street? As far as Logan knew, Warren had never been to this particular area of Oxford before. Assumedly, he had never been to Charles' place before that night. Charles rarely saw the same guy twice. Logan himself had been an exception. But why should someone who knew and despised Warren for some reason attack him there, of all places? Had he been following them to Charles' home without their noticing? If so, was Charles maybe in danger, too?

How scared must the kid have been? Had the attack taken him by surprise and completely overwhelmed him? Or had he maybe expected the assault? Perhaps Charles would have an answer to this. Maybe Warren had mentioned to him that he was scared of someone, possibly even someone within his own family. His father had been indignant enough about the information that his son had been gay.

Logan recalled Mr. Worthington's reaction only too well. He himself had interviewed him.

 

"I just want to clarify that my wife and myself had absolutely no knowledge of Warren's immoral lifestyle. You may rest assured that I would not have stood for it, had I been aware. We never overindulged Warren while he lived with us, so I am sure that this is a habit he must have picked up after he moved into his own home."

 

The man's lack of sorrow and his belief that his son's homosexuality had been some kind of a bad decision had been incredibly disgusting. However, he hadn't really seemed furious or aggressive, only appalled. And anyway, both Warren's parents had been at a charity dinner in Cheltenham last Saturday, and hadn't left before 3 am. Many other guests and a waiter had confirmed this. They could have never made it in time, as the taxi driver had discovered the body at about 3:30 am.

It was infuriating. They had met dead ends everywhere. It had seemed such a promising start that this one neighbour of Charles' had spotted a young man lurking around at 3 am that night and had even been able to describe him quite well. But all leads that had come in after that had led to nothing. Furthermore, Logan was evidently the only one in his division who really cared about capturing the attacker. His colleagues had all pretty quickly moved on to other cases, stating that they "wouldn't be able to solve it anyway" as there were "no strong leads."

It seemed like responsibility for bringing that bastard to justice lay with Logan alone. And he would solve it, no matter what.

"I'll get that scumbag, kid. That's a promise," he growled.

 

Lunch came and went and still there was no new information, no new leads, nothing. Logan kept reviewing all the files he had, just in case he had missed something, but there wasn't anything.

The day dragged on. As there was nothing to be done in the Worthington case, Logan was forced to do other work. So he spent the day writing reports and tidying up his office, although he never really stopped thinking about who might have murdered the young man.

 

At 4:30 pm it was finally time to leave, so he took his leather jacket and car keys, said goodbye to Azazel and walked out of the building towards his car.

The weather was still beautiful. It hadn't rained for a week now, which was a rare occurrence for Oxford. Had Logan been a poet he would probably have said that not even the sky was shedding a tear for this young gay man. Luckily he was no poet or he would have probably started getting thoroughly depressed by now.

Logan got into his car and drove towards the neighbourhood where Charles lived.

 

He was a few minutes early, when he parked his car at the side of the street, but judging by the vehicle in the driveway, Charles was already home.

The house looked the way it had always done, small, but neat. It had been a while since Logan had been here and he had to admit that he had missed it, although not as much as he had missed its inhabitant.

 

The door opened just a few moments after Logan had rung the doorbell.

"Logan."

"Hey, Chuck."

He looked tired and even a little paler than usual. Instead of the tight well-fitting jeans and shirt that Logan had seen on him so often, he was wearing his workaday clothes, loose beige trousers, and a blue cardigan. They made him look even smaller than he was in reality.

"Come in," said Charles with a small smile and stepped aside to make room. "Would you like anything to drink?" he asked, following Logan into the living-room.

"Water would be nice, thanks."

Charles disappeared into the kitchen and Logan looked around. He had never seen the place so clean and tidy. Usually, there were books and notes scattered all over the room, if not some remains of a late-night snack.

Charles came back from the kitchen, two glasses of water in his hand.

"There you go." He handed one glass over to Logan, took a seat on the sofa and gestured for Logan to do the same.

Logan sat down opposite Charles.

"You've been cleaning."

"Yeah." Charles forced a little laugh. "About time, right?"

He seemed very nervous, so it was probably best to get straight to the point.

"So. Can you tell me what happened last Saturday?"

Charles swallowed.

"I can be sure that my name will be kept secret, can't I? I mean, I know I can trust you and you know—”

Chuck, I know and I’ll do my very best. Right now, nobody needs to know your name but me. The only scenario where this could possibly change would be if I needed you to testify in order for us to get that bastard convicted. In that case,” he sighed, “I would get back to you first.”

Charles seemed a little reassured. He closed his eyes for a moment.

Right. Where do you want me to start?”

At the beginning. Where and when did you meet him?”

Saturday night, at the Glory. I guess it was probably 10 o’clock, or maybe 10:30.”

Was this the first time you’d seen him?”

Charles nodded.

OK. What happened then?”

We just…. We had a few drinks, talked a little and we got on quite well. At some point he asked me whether I lived far away, I told him how far and that I had my car parked outside, and we left together.”

Did he tell you where he lived or how he had got there?”

No, he didn’t tell me where he lived. He considered for a moment following me in his own car, so it must have been parked somewhere nearby. But then he decided that he would come with me instead and simply take a cab back to the bar later and pick it up.”

Charles looked suddenly distraught.

Fuck,” he said quietly. “If he had just….” His voice trailed away.

Logan took a mental note to go looking for the car the next morning. They had already searched for it unsuccessfully, but back then they hadn’t known where to look. It was unlikely that he would find anything of interest inside the car, but right now any detail was important.

He looked at Charles who was staring at his own fingers, looking troubled.

What time did you leave?” he asked gently.

Erm…. I think…. Probably around midnight, but I can’t be sure.”

And you came straight here?”

Yes.”

Charles glanced at him, looking uncomfortable.

Do you need me to tell you what exactly we…. What we did, in detail?”

I don’t think so. If there had been any injuries that suggested that he had been raped, it would be important to know, but there wasn’t anything like that.”

Charles looked relieved.

I guess then I’ll continue with what happened after….?”

Logan nodded and Charles went on:

Well, he had a shower, got dressed and then I called a cab for him.”

When was that?”

Must have been around 3 am.”

But you didn’t call it to your house?”

Charles shook his head, looking ashamed.

I asked the driver to come to the bus stop around the corner, where Warren was…. Where the driver found him later.”

And you did that because you didn’t want anyone to notice?”

Charles looked absolutely miserable as he nodded.

What time did he leave the house? Do you remember?”

It wasn’t long after I had called the cab, maybe 10 past or quarter past 3?”

What did you do afterwards?”

I had a shower and then I went to bed.”

Right,” Logan scratched his head. “When you drove here with Warren, did you see anyone? Was there maybe a car following you?”

No, not that I remember.”

And you didn’t see a man in the street either?”

No, but then…. I wasn’t really paying attention. I mean, I was…. Well…. Too horny, I guess.”

Charles blushed.

Logan couldn’t help himself. He smiled. He remembered the time when he had been the one to accompany Charles home. They had often barely made it to the bed, as Charles had been so impatient, tearing at his clothes as soon as the front door had clicked shut.

He caught himself. This wasn’t the time to reminisce about a long lost love. This was work.

And you didn’t see anyone when he left, either?”

Charles shook his head.

I didn’t really look,” he said apologetically.

Did Warren mention anyone to you? Maybe family or someone else he knew?”

No, we didn’t talk about family. In fact, I don’t think we talked about him at all. He really soon asked me what I did and then he kept on asking about my work. He seemed to find it interesting. I didn’t even ask him one thing about himself,” Charles added, dismayed.

So you didn’t get the impression that he somehow expected an attack? He didn’t seem scared to you?”

No, nothing like that. He didn’t seem troubled at all…. He was so interested in who I was, I…. I never suspected that he wasn’t out either. He seemed so… relaxed. He was lovely. And I basically shoved him out of the door, right into his killer’s arms.”

Charles looked so miserable and pathetic, that Logan got up and sat down next to him, putting his large arms around the smaller man. Charles grabbed on to him very tightly for a moment, then let go again, gathering himself.

Sorry,” he said. “A moment of weakness.”

Don’t worry, Chuck,” said Logan gently. “I want you to know that you can always come to me, alright? Your secret is safe with me.”

Charles smiled weakly.

Thank you, Logan. My secret…. God, this is such a mess,” he groaned, covering his face with his hands. “I’m screwing everything up, aren’t I?”

Logan frowned.

I don’t know what you mean, bub. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

I’m not so sure,” said Charles wearily. “Maybe I am a bloody hypocrite after all.”

What? I never said you were a hypocrite.”

Yeah, no…. Never mind.” Charles sighed deeply. “I guess I’m just a bit overwhelmed. I’m sorry.”

That’s OK, bub.”

They fell silent for a while, Charles staring blankly at the opposite wall, clearly absorbed in thought, while Logan was watching him, a little worried.

He had never seen Charles like this. The crime had obviously unsettled him more than Logan had expected, although it somehow seemed like there was something else occupying his mind as well. However, Logan wasn’t the nosy type. If Charles wanted to tell him, he could, if not, then Logan wasn’t going to pry.

After a few minutes Charles seemed to catch himself. He closed his eyes for a moment and shook his head slightly, before he looked at Logan again.

Sorry about this,” he repeated. “I don’t know what’s going on with me.”

Have you thought about taking a break from work?” asked Logan.

No, that’s not it. I don’t think that would…. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine,” he added with a small smile.

Are you sure?”

Charles nodded.

Do you need anything else from me?”

Well, for one thing I want you to promise me that you’ll be staying safe as long as we don’t know who did this. This maniac probably knows where you live and that Warren was with you, so we can’t exclude the possibility that he might be coming after you, as well.”

Right.”

Apart from that, there’s nothing I can think of right now, but I’ll call you if something comes up.”

They both got up and walked towards the front door. When they had reached it, Logan turned towards Charles.

Are you really sure you’ll be fine?”

Yeah, thank you for coming over, Logan.”

No problem, bub. It’s my job. And I’m your friend,” he added. “You can call me whenever you need me, alright? And especially,” he added emphatically, “if you get the feeling that someone is watching or following you.”

Yeah, I will. Thanks again.”

They hugged tightly for a moment, then Charles let go and Logan opened the door to step outside.

I’ll see you, Chuck.”

Yeah, I’d like that. Let’s have a drink some time soon. Just to catch up, no wailing,” he added, smiling weakly.

Logan waved his goodbye and left. When he got into his car and took a look at the clock, he was surprised to see that it was already 6:30 pm. They had talked longer than he’d thought.

It hadn’t been easy seeing Charles troubled like this, but he would be alright. He was much tougher than most people thought. Just as long as he stayed safe.

Chapter Text

Chapter Six – Erik

 

Erik sat at the breakfast table, a bowl of cereal in front of him. He absentmindedly turned a teaspoon over in his hand, absorbed in thought.

It was already past noon, but he was wearing nothing but his boxers. He had just gotten out of bed, yet he couldn't have slept more than a few hours.

He'd been lying awake almost all night and had only gone to sleep a long time after the first rays of sunlight had crept through the gap between the blinds and his bedroom window.

He had hoped that the subject that had kept him awake most of the night would have finally stopped bothering him that much in the morning, but to no avail.

He just couldn't stop thinking about Charles.

Every time the freckled face with those annoyingly blue eyes and infuriatingly red lips reappeared in his mind, his heart skipped a beat and his anger rose again.

Erik had never met someone who was both as intelligent and yet hopelessly naive as Charles. How could he fail to see that it was absolutely necessary to act, to seek revenge and to teach those bastards to keep away from your people? How could Charles possibly think that any of those scumbags would really be brought to justice if they left matters to the police?

But what could you expect from someone who was so ashamed of his own homosexuality that he couldn't even tell his own sister? A sister, on top of that, who was extremely open-minded and wouldn't mind in the slightest. Other people had a much less supportive family around and still they found the courage to come out.

It was absolutely infuriating.

Erik had been so enraged by their encounter last night, he had stormed out of the bar only moments after Charles and had spent almost two hours walking around the town aimlessly in an effort to cool off.

It had been after 3am when he'd finally fallen into bed, and only then had he remembered why he'd gone to the bar in the first place. The thought that Charles and his stupid naivety and cowardice were able to interfere with Erik's ability to get laid had caused a new surge of anger. And yet, he'd felt weirdly aroused again and, after a moment's struggle with himself, had given in to the desire and beaten off so furiously, he might have actually sprained his wrist a little.

Erik just couldn't understand what was going on. He had met many closeted gay men before and also many people whose opinions he found intolerable. All of them had made him angry, but nobody quite the way Charles did. Erik could hardly believe that they had only met yesterday. It felt like they had been having this argument for years already. Even more than the subject they had fought about, Charles was extremely irritating as a person. Erik couldn't quite pin it down, but something about the man made his blood boil like nothing else had ever done.

On top of everything, Charles had to be the most, well, beautiful bastard Erik had ever met. Those deep blue eyes that really sucked you in, the dark brown hair that basically asked to be ruffled, the red lips which seemed to scream "Kiss me!", and those freckles.... It was maddening.

But the one thing that annoyed Erik most of all was that he felt bad about himself, too. He'd been right about everything he'd said last night and yet he couldn't get the hurt look on Charles' face out of his head. Besides all the rage, this was immensely confusing. Erik had never before cared about whether he'd offended anybody and now he couldn't stop thinking about how much he might have upset Charles. These feelings of remorse and worry were completely new to him and he didn't like it at all. How could he stop this from bothering him so much?

 

Erik glanced at his cereal, which he'd completely forgotten about. It was already soaked through with milk. Erik wrinkled his nose. He hated soggy cereal.

With a sigh he got up and poured the contents of his bowl down the drain. He didn't feel hungry anyway. However, he had to do something to keep himself occupied and stop him from pondering over last night's encounter.

Maybe working would do the trick. He went into his bedroom, turned on his computer and opened his editing programme to get started. As all photos he had to work on were portraits of Charles, however, this didn't work too well as a distraction. After about 30 minutes he had to stop again. He couldn't bear looking at those blue eyes. They made him feel both furious about Charles and terrible about himself. On top of that, he felt horny again. What the hell was wrong with him?

It didn't matter too much though. He'd essentially finished all the editing. All he'd really had left to do was select a number of photographs to send to this Emma person. Well, he'd just have to do that later and find something else to occupy himself with in the meantime. Not everything had to do with Charles.

 

As he was still in his boxers, he went to take a shower, during which he resisted the urge to jerk off again, not wanting to fantasize about Charles more. The drawback of this decision was that he came out of the shower freezing, as he had been forced to keep turning the temperature down.

Once he'd gotten dressed, he went about cleaning and tidying up his flat. However, he rarely left anything lying around and always cleant up after himself, so this didn't take long.

To keep himself distracted he went for a walk, then got himself some late lunch at the bakery and went for another walk during which he ate it. The fresh air cleared his head a little and watching all the people go about their business provided at least some distraction.

 

When he got home, it was after 5pm. He had successfully idled away several hours. However, his hope that the long walk would ease his tension was disappointed. As soon as he was back in his flat, all those unbearable feelings were back and they were already driving him crazy again.

If he could just see Charles and make sure that he was alright and not devastated or furious with Erik, maybe this intolerable tension would fade away. Perhaps, if they could start afresh, have a nice little chat and part on good terms, everything would go back to normal.

Erik had already picked up his phone to find out Charles' address, when an unpleasant thought struck him: How should he explain to Charles why he was coming to see him? They weren't friends. And the only real conversation they'd ever had had ended in Charles leaving, angry and upset.

He put his phone back on the table and sighed. No, there was no way this was going to work. Charles would probably slam the door right in his face. So he would simply have to keep distracting himself until the unpleasant tension eased off.

Hadn't he promised Emma that he was going to send her the photos no later than tomorrow? He should better get back to them and select the number of photos she wanted. He hated being late.

A sudden realisation hit him: Wasn't this the perfect excuse to go and see Charles? He could just tell him that he wanted him to choose the photos for himself. Apart from that being a really good reason for Erik to go and see him, Charles might actually like it as well. It gave the impression that Erik valued his opinion.

 

It was almost half past 6, when Erik parked his car at the side of the street and glanced at the house with the number 25 right in front of him. According to the online phone book, this was where Charles lived. The car parked in its driveway looked like the one he had been driving yesterday at any rate. The house looked rather unremarkable. It was small but kempt. And luckily without any fountains or birdbaths, like many of the neighbouring houses.

Erik breathed in very deeply, gathering himself. He could do this.

 

Right when Erik was about to get out of his car, Charles' front door opened. A rather large man stepped outside, turned towards the open door for a moment, apparently talking to someone standing there. Then he waved and walked away towards the street, got into a car and drove off.

Erik sat staring after him. He knew that man. His name was Logan Howlett. Erik didn't know much more about him as they had never spoken more than a few words to each other, but he knew one thing: Logan was definitely and openly gay. And he had just walked out of Charles' door.

Erik clenched his fists, then released them again and inhaled very deeply.

This was none of his business. Charles could invite whoever he wanted into his house and he could do with them whatever he fancied. He was at perfect liberty to have sex with Logan as often, and wherever he wanted. And there was absolutely no reason at all to be upset or angry about it.

So, why the hell was he torn between finding the next pub to get desperately drunk, and driving after Logan to tear him limb from limb? None of these feelings made any sense.

No, he had to gather himself, ring that doorbell, show Charles the photographs and have a nice conversation. And most of all he had to avoid yelling at or offending Charles in any way.

 

Erik took three very deep breaths, got out of his car and walked towards the house. The closer he got the tenser he became. Yet he forced himself to ring the doorbell, closing his eyes for a moment.

The door opened. Erik saw Charles' expectant look turn to one of apprehension at the sight of him. This did nothing to lift his mood.

"Hey," he said shortly.

"Hey," echoed Charles. "Can I help you?"

He was wearing beige trousers that were several sizes too big for him and a blue cardigan. He really looked like a stereotypical professor now, only much more attractive.

"No. Yes. I brought photos."

"You brought photos?"

"Of you."

"Of me?"

Charles looked positively alarmed now.

Erik should probably explain more.

"I looked through the portraits and the interview photos and thought maybe you'd like to choose for yourself which ones I should send to this Emma person."

"Right...."

"Can I come in? We'll need to use your computer."

"Erm.... OK."

Charles stepped aside to let Erik in, still eyeing him cautiously, then closed the door behind him and led the way into a roomy, comfortable and very clean living-room.

"I'll just get my laptop." He gestured up a flight of stairs.

"Right."

"Take a seat," he said and disappeared upstairs.

Erik sat down gingerly, looking at the place where Charles had just vanished. This was probably where Charles' bedroom was. Erik tried very hard not to imagine Charles lying in bed.

A short moment later Charles was back, carrying a small business laptop. He placed it onto the coffee table, opened it, and sat down on the sofa next to Erik.

He sighed.

"Right then. Show me what you've got."

Erik inserted his flash drive into the laptop and opened the folder, then pushed the computer back towards Charles.

"You're supposed to choose one portrait and two of the other ones. Just tell me which ones you want and I'll send them on."

Erik watched as Charles looked closely at each photograph in turn, a blush on his cheek becoming more and more pronounced the longer he looked. Finally he turned towards Erik, looking abashed.

"Erik, these are.... They're good. They're really good."

It really shouldn't matter this much what Charles thought of his photographs. It shouldn't make his heart beat twice as fast as usual. And most importantly of all, it shouldn't make him want to push Charles down on the sofa and kiss him.

"Thanks. I'm glad you like them."

"No, really, they're—" Charles broke off, throwing him a confused look. "Erik, why are you here?"

"Why am I here?"

"Yes. I don’t get it."

"Well, I wanted to show you the photos and—"

"Last night you said all kinds of terrible things to me, besides making it quite clear that you despise me for everything I am and do, and today you just come here and act as though nothing ever happened."

Erik didn’t know what to say. He hadn’t anticipated this. He felt ineffably stupid. All the bad feelings of today that he had just managed to suppress came flooding back at once.

I mean…. This doesn’t make any sense. Erik?”

Erik’s heart was pounding fast and hard. He felt hot blood rush upwards into his head.

I better get going,” he said shortly, gathering up his USB flash drive and getting up quickly.

How could he have been so stupid and weak-willed? He should have never come here. What the hell had made him do it?

Goodbye, Charles.” He turned towards the door. He just had to get out of there.

Erik, wait! What are you—” Charles came hurrying after Erik and caught up with him in the hallway.

Don’t leave now! What the hell is wrong with—” He caught Erik by his sleeve and pulled him back.

Something that Erik had barely been holding in broke suddenly loose. He turned around and pushed Charles hard against the wall, breathing heavily.

Their faces were very close now. Charles wore an expression of surprise. Then, suddenly, he grabbed Erik by his collar and pulled him closer, crashing their lips together and starting to kiss him as if his life depended on it.

All the blood that had been pounding in Erik’s head rushed downwards within seconds. Erik couldn’t think straight. His hands found Charles’ shirt and he pulled him closer forcefully, kissing back so hard he could barely breathe.

It wasn’t a pretty kiss. Their teeth collided more than once and they kept gasping into each other’s mouths, both dazed with overwhelming arousal.

When Erik bit Charles’ lower lip, Charles let out a moan and Erik’s mind went blank. All he knew was that his shirt was being ripped off of him and that Charles’ hands and lips were all over his face and torso, which were exactly the places he wanted them to be. Meanwhile he himself had pulled that stupid cardigan over Charles’ head and unbuttoned his shirt in a hurry, so he could finally touch the soft, white and freckly chest.

Erik’s cock was already brick hard and his jeans uncomfortably tight, and he longed for a bit of friction, so he brought their crotches together and ground against Charles. The deep moan this elicited from Charles’ mouth was the most arousing sound Erik had ever heard. And he needed more of that sound.

Erik dropped to his knees, his face at the height of Charles’ crotch and fumbled with the button of his trousers. Charles’ legs shook for a moment before he steadied himself again. Out of the corner of his eyes, Erik saw Charles throw his head back and breathe heavily through his mouth.

The button came undone and Erik yanked Charles’ trousers down. His erection was clearly visible through his boxers. Erik felt the blood pound vigorously in his own cock, as he set out to pull Charles’ boxers down.

Charles suddenly went rigid. He quickly leant down and pushed Erik away from his crotch, clumsily trying to pull up his trousers with his free hand at the same time, but failing and toppling over onto the floor.

Erik, who had fallen backwards onto the floor as well, watched in a daze as Charles got up again and finally succeeded in drawing up his trousers. He looked debauched. His hair was ruffled, his lips were even redder than before, his shirt hung open on him and he was still breathing heavily.

I’m sorry,” he breathed out. “This was a mistake. Please go.”

What?” Erik still couldn’t think straight. What the hell was happening?

Please get dressed and go,” Charles repeated. His cheeks were red and he looked slightly panicked.

When Erik didn’t respond, Charles picked up Erik’s shirt and his own cardigan and threw the shirt at Erik before he quickly disappeared into the living room.

Erik stared after him. He was still coming to terms with what had just happened. What had gone wrong? Had he done something that had freaked out Charles? But all he had been doing was preparing to give Charles a blowjob. Charles had seemed eager enough a moment before and then, suddenly—

Erik shook his head. There wasn’t enough oxygen in his brain right now to solve this mystery. He needed to get out of here now, get some fresh air, and go home as soon as possible for either a cold shower or a wank.

He quickly put on his shirt and set about fastening it, but noticed that two buttons were missing. They had to be somewhere in the hallway, but Erik didn’t bother looking for them. Instead, he stepped out of the door as quickly as he could.

It was still really warm and sunny outside. Erik took a deep breath and walked towards his car, very aware of the still pounding erection in his too tight jeans.

 

As he drove homeward, his head cleared a little and some of the sexual tension wore off. Everything that had happened came into clearer focus now. He groaned. What the hell had he done? He'd gone to Charles' house to have an amicable conversation and then to part on good terms, not to have sex with him. He had one simple rule: No closeted men. They weren't worth the trouble. And besides, there were so many other reasons not to get too close to Charles. He'd thought them all through thoroughly right after they'd met last night. It had been idiotic of him to get carried away like that. Pure madness. Surely, Charles had realised something similar, and that was why he had put an end to it before it was too late. Erik should be thankful and glad, really, that Charles had stopped him.

But why then did it feel as if he'd missed the opportunity of a lifetime?

 

Back at home in his flat, Erik took a cold shower. He had to get rid of the remains of his erection and he didn't at all feel like jerking off anymore. In fact, he felt thoroughly depressed.

He had to be honest with himself. All the anger that he had felt when he'd thought about Charles.... Had it all been pent-up sexual tension? Had he simply wanted to be close to Charles and felt angry with himself mostly because he knew he couldn't violate his own principles like that?

"Fuck," he muttered under his breath.

No closeted men. It was one simple rule. Why the hell did he suddenly find it so hard to follow?

Chapter Text

Chapter Seven – Charles

 

Charles sat tensely on the sofa in his living-room, his cardigan clasped tightly in his hands, listening intently, while breathing heavily. Then, finally, he heard the front door click shut. He took one deep breath. Erik was gone.

Some of the tension fell away as he let himself sink slowly backwards until he was slumped down on his sofa. He lifted both hands to cover his face.

What a mess.

He had trouble comprehending what had just happened. How had it even come to them making out? He'd been convinced that Erik hated him. But then.... Hating someone didn't really stop people from having sex with them, did it? He didn't even know Erik. Perhaps he just loved to hate people. Maybe all this anger had been a big turn-on for him. No, that didn't make any sense. He should try and think clearly, but that just wasn't easy with a throbbing erection in his pants.

How could he have been so stupid? Erik was Raven's friend. Talk about making things even more complicated for himself. Would Erik tell Raven? Charles somehow didn't think he would, but how could he be sure? He'd only met Erik the day before after all, and had no idea what he was like as a person.

Why hadn't he been able to control himself? Yes, he did find Erik attractive and he had fantasized about him before, but this could potentially unhinge his whole life. Why hadn't this thought come to him a bit earlier? Why couldn't he have remembered his situation before he had grabbed Erik and started to kiss him like some horny teenager? But it hadn't occurred to him until Erik had actually been about to pull Charles' cock out of his boxers to go down on him. Then he had panicked and tried to save the situation by preventing them from actually having sex. However, the damage was done anyway. It wouldn't have made any difference, had they gone all the way.

He caught himself imagining what it would have been like if he hadn't stopped Erik, if Erik had actually started what he'd been about to do. Would he have jerked Charles off with his hand, first? They had both been so impatient, that Erik probably wouldn't have taken his time. He might even have started going down on him straight away. Immediately, Charles' erection, which had slowly begun to soften, became fully hard and throbbing again.

He couldn't help himself. He unbuttoned his trousers again and slid his right hand inside. His chest still lay bare, his shirt wide open, and he began stroking it with his left hand, remembering how Erik's touch had felt.

He took care this time, closing his eyes and imagining that his hands were Erik's instead. He visualized them both in a setting where their touches weren't rough and hurried, but soft and gentle, where they both felt that they had all the time in the world. He imagined tender kisses, soft breathing, and firm, but gentle stroking.

He was so absorbed in his fantasy that his orgasm almost took him by surprise. He opened his eyes and was slightly confused to find himself alone on his sofa. The fantasy had been so real that it felt as if he had been woken from a very pleasant dream. He was spent and sleepy.

It took him a few moments to remember his current situation. He sighed deeply. He wasn't tense anymore, but resigned. He just couldn't go on living like this any longer. His last fantasy had shown him this quite plainly. He didn't want meaningless sex anymore. He wanted love and closeness. He wanted happiness and no more shame.

And he wanted Erik.

Charles swallowed. It wasn't easy to admit it, but it was true. He couldn't remember ever feeling more drawn towards someone in such a short amount of time. The first time he'd seen Erik in that corridor, he'd found him incredibly attractive. He'd considered propositioning him straight away, even though he'd been feeling so down that day, but Erik had been so aloof that he hadn't dared. Later, after he'd learned that Erik was Raven's friend he'd been glad about that, of course, but he hadn't been able to get Erik completely out of his head nevertheless. Charles was sure now that this was why he'd felt the desire to go to that bar last night. And when he'd actually met Erik there and gotten to know him a little better, he'd found that he liked and admired him for his pride and strong beliefs, however much they were differing from his own. He hadn't even harboured any hard feelings after Erik had told him he was a coward and a hypocrite. He had been upset, true, but that had been more due to the fact that Erik had vocalised all the things Charles had secretly been thinking himself anyway. When Erik had suddenly appeared in front of his door today, Charles had been completely taken aback. He honestly hadn't expected to see him again. But why had he come? And why had he fled when Charles had asked him?

Charles shook his head in confusion. He just wasn't able to figure Erik out, although he wanted to so badly. But would he be able to talk to him again? After all, he had just thrown him out of the house when Erik had attempted to give him a blowjob. Erik probably wouldn't want anything to do with Charles, now he had embarrassed him like that. Not to mention that Erik despised him for his cowardice and hypocrisy anyway.

Charles just had to try and get Erik out of his head again. Since they were unlikely to meet again, this shouldn't take too long.

Charles sighed. Something else needed thinking about. Even though this encounter with Erik hadn't led to anything sexually, it had still confirmed his resolution that he had to tell Raven he was gay, and as soon as possible. He glanced at his watch. It was already 10pm, so it was too late then, but he could call her and arrange for them to meet tomorrow.

He was surprised to find that this decision didn't scare him as much as he'd expected. Instead he felt a wave of relief and even some excitement. He was finally going to be able to share this important part of his life with someone else.

 

This time he slept a lot better than he had done since he'd found out about Warren's death. He felt refreshed, although nervous, when he got up in the morning to go to work. He apparently looked better and healthier as well. At least that was what his colleague Moira told him when they all had lunch together.

In the afternoon, he got out his phone and shot Raven a text.

"Do you have time later? I've got something I'd like to talk to you about. X."

It wasn't long until Raven replied.

"Oooooh, now I'm intrigued. Any hints? How about you join us for dinner? I'm sure I can convince Hank to cook something nice. Xxx"

Charles swallowed. He hadn't counted on Hank being there as well. But after all he was a big part of Raven's life, so he would have to be told anyway. And in any case, Hank was a nice and down-to-earth guy, so Charles couldn't imagine him reacting in a negative way. He took a deep breath and wrote his answer.

"No hints. But that sounds good. 6pm? X."

He had barely put down his phone, when it vibrated again.

"Fine, be secretive. ;-) See you then! Xxx"

So, that was it then. He was going to do this. He had postponed this moment for years, and now it was actually going to happen.

 

He felt hyped up and nervous all day. He even forgot to go to his lecture in the afternoon and only remembered, when some of his students showed up at his office, looking for him. He was extremely embarrassed, especially when they reminded him that this was their last lecture of the term and that the exam was scheduled for the week after.

At 5pm he left his office to go home, planning to have a shower and mentally prepare for his conversation with Raven and Hank. However, when he'd gotten out of the shower and got dressed, he noticed that it was already 5:50pm, so he got into his car and drove off, feeling terribly ill-prepared for his coming out. How the hell did you do something like this?

 

Raven looked far too excited, when she opened the door.

"Charles! Finally!"

"Hey, Raven."

"OK, out with it! What is it you wanted to tell me?"

"Raven, I haven't even come in yet. Can't we sit down and have dinner first?"

Raven rolled her eyes.

"Aren't you secretive. Well, it better be something good for all the suspense you're creating. Don't let me down."

She stepped aside and he entered the small hallway which led to their dining area. It smelled deliciously of mediterranean roasted vegetables and fried fish. Raven was extremely lucky that Hank loved cooking and was remarkably good at it, as she herself could burn water and would probably have to survive on take-out otherwise. Charles wasn't exactly the best cook either, but at least he managed to make himself some decent pasta.

Charles stuck his head through the kitchen door. Hank was busying himself with the frying pan.

"Hey Hank."

"Hi Charles."

"Thanks for cooking. It smells amazing!"

Hank smiled at him, a little embarrassedly.

"It's almost done. Could you ask Raven to set the table?"

 

The food was indeed delicious and Charles enjoyed it so much, he might even have forgotten for a moment what he was about to do, if it hadn't been for Raven and the curious looks she shot him all the time.

When they had all finished, it was quiet for a moment, before Raven burst out: "Now, tell me already! What is it?"

She had always been unashamedly nosy. Maybe he shouldn't have said beforehand that he had something he wanted to tell her. He didn't know how to begin.

"What is it, Charles? Is it filthy gossip?”

She looked delighted at the prospect.

No, it’s not gossip—”

Too bad. Is it to do with work? Because that would be really disappointing.”

No, not work—”

Raven gasped in excitement.

Don’t tell me! You’re finally seeing someone! Who is it? Do I know—”

Raven, I’m gay.”

He hadn’t meant to blurt it out like this.

Raven gaped at him. Nobody spoke. Hank shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

Charles couldn’t bear the tension any longer.

Raven?”

Raven exhaled slowly.

Wow…. Whatever it was that I expected…. It wasn’t this.”

She looked upset. Charles’ heart sank. He didn’t know what to say.

How long have you known?” Raven asked.

Charles took a deep breath.

Ages. I couldn’t even say. I honestly don’t know.”

And you never told me.” She looked disappointed.

I…. Raven, I didn’t think—”

Didn’t think you could trust me?”

No, that’s not it. Raven, I was just…. I don’t know.”

He hadn’t expected her to react like this. Hank reached for Raven’s hand.

She took a deep breath and looked at Charles.

Did you think I wouldn’t accept you for the person you are, Charles? I love you. No matter who you find attractive or choose to be with.”

I know that, Raven. I’m really sorry. I—”

Oh, shut up.”

Raven stood up, walked around the table and hugged Charles very tightly in his chair.

You bloody idiot,” she whispered in his ear. “I love you so much.”

Charles got up as well and hugged her back, closing his eyes. He wanted to tell her how much this meant to him, how relieved he felt, how much he loved her in return. But all the words got stuck in his throat. It was all he could do to stop himself from crying. And Raven would definitely tease him if he burst into tears now. He smiled and hugged her tighter, a little teary-eyed nevertheless.

OK, enough emotions or I’m going to vomit,” said Raven and let go of him. Her eyes looked damp as well, but she was laughing again.

No, Raven, you’re right. I should have told you sooner. I’m—”

It doesn’t matter. I’m glad you’ve told me now.”

She wiped the tears out of her eyes and gave another laugh.

You do realise that I want all the dirty little details now, don’t you?”

Charles snorted. He suddenly felt happier than he had in ages.

Right. Well, I can’t promise you that.”

He turned towards Hank.

I’m sorry about all the drama.”

Hank shook his head, smiling.

Don’t worry. I’m happy for you.”

Right,” said Raven, smiling brightly now. “I’m thinking some red wine might be in order. I need to get you really drunk so you’ll tell me everything.”

 

They sat down on the sofa, each with a glass of red wine in their hands. Just two nights previously they had been sitting here as well, also drinking red wine and talking. Yet it was a completely different experience. Charles’ heart felt lighter than ever before. No more pretending, no more lies, no more loneliness. From now on, he would be able to share his joy and his misery with his sister.

He took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment.

When he opened them again, he saw Raven looking at him.

I’m waiting, you know,” she said with a small smile.

Waiting for what?”

Details, Charles, bloody details!”

What kind of details?”

She looked exasperated. The look was so familiar that Charles started to laugh.

Anything and everything, dear brother. How many boyfriends have you kept hidden from me?”

Absolutely none. Well….” He thought of Logan. “Maybe half a boyfriend.”

Raven raised her eyebrows.

That sounds as though you’ve been involved in horrific practices.”

All three of them laughed.

It was wonderful. Only a few hours ago Charles wouldn’t have thought it possible that he might ever discuss these things with his sister, but now it felt positively liberating.

So there isn’t anyone right now?” Raven asked.

You mean a boyfriend? No, there’s no boyfriend.”

Raven’s face lit up.

Does this mean you’re lusting after someone, my dear brother?”

Lusting after someone? Raven, what the hell?”

Fine. Have you taken a fancy to anyone lately?”

Well, I—”

Oh my God! Who? Do I know him?”

Erm….”

I do, don’t I? Who is it?

When he didn’t answer, Raven pressed on.

Come on now, tell me!”

I…. Sorry, Raven. But nothing’s going to come out of it anyway, so I’d rather not talk about it, if that’s alright.”

The thought of Erik had definitely dampened his high spirits.

Raven, however, wasn’t going to give up so easily.

Are you sure of that? Why? Is he spoken for? Or straight?”

Raven, give him a break,” chimed in Hank.

Charles sighed.

Look, I’m just pretty sure he doesn’t exactly feel the same way about me, OK? Can we please discuss something else now?”

But he is gay?”

Yes, he is.”

And he’s also up for grabs?”

Charles sighed again.

I don’t know, alright? I think so. But it doesn’t matter, because I’m pretty sure he’s not interested. Now, can we please move on to something else?”

Raven looked as though she had a million more questions, but Hank raised his eyebrows at her and for once she took the hint.

Who else knows about it?” she asked.

About me being gay?”

She nodded.

Nobody. Well, a couple of strangers, but nobody of importance.”

Raven grinned.

You dissolute little bastard. How many?”

Charles shook his head.

Raven, please…. Inappropriate.”

Why couldn’t he just keep his mouth shut?

Raven laughed loudly.

 

They sat, talked, drank and laughed together for several hours. It was already past 3am when Hank finally dozed off, his head on Raven’s shoulder, glasses askew, and Charles and Raven realized that they both had to get up early for work in a few hours. As Charles had drunk so much wine he could barely walk in a straight line, Raven offered him to stay over in their spare room, which he accepted gladly.

They half carried Hank to Raven’s and Hank’s bed, falling over twice on the way and giggling madly each time. Then they went into the bathroom together, where Raven procured a spare toothbrush from somewhere. It was probably due to their being drunk, but it almost felt like old times back in Westchester, before everything had gone downhill, when they had both been children and carefree, and hadn’t kept any secrets from each other. They laughed and pulled faces while they brushed their teeth, trying to make each other laugh with their mouths full of toothpaste. It had been a long time, since Charles had behaved so childishly and felt so unburdened and liberated.

They then said their goodnights, hugging tightly again for a long time, before they both stumbled into their respective bedrooms.

Charles fell into bed, feeling muzzy and tired, but happy as well.

Everything would be so much better from now on. No more secrets from Raven. No more lying and hiding. This would be the start of a new life for him.

He felt a pang of regret, however, when he realised that everything could be even better, had he only told Raven a few days earlier, before he’d met Erik. Perhaps their encounter would have gone differently then. Maybe he would be lying in his own bed right now with Erik next to him.

Charles slowly drifted off, the imagined feeling of a warm chest pressing against his back and a slender arm resting on his waist, guiding him to sleep.

Chapter Text

Chapter Eight – Erik

 

Erik was angry with himself.

It had been two days since the almost-sexual encounter with Charles, and still Erik wasn't able to forget about him and move on. His mind kept trying to understand what had happened and what it all meant.

Charles had kissed him first, so he obviously found Erik attractive, but then he had suddenly pushed Erik away and had fled. Well, there could be a hundred reasons for this behaviour. Erik hadn't exactly treated him nicely the night before. On top of that, Erik was friends with Charles' sister, who had no idea that Charles was gay. But nevertheless, Erik couldn't forget just how eager and turned on Charles had been before he'd run off. What did this mean? Did it mean anything at all? Maybe Charles just hadn't had any sex in a long time. Erik had clearly spoilt his attempt the night before. Maybe he'd been so desperate for sex that he hadn't cared for a moment who he was kissing, turned on despite the fact that it had been Erik who'd pushed him against the wall, and not because of it.

Erik shook his head angrily. These thoughts had been spinning round in his head for the last two days without getting him anywhere. He'd barely slept because he hadn't been able to keep them quiet.

There was just no denying the fact that Erik wanted Charles bad. So bad, in fact, that he could hardly think about anything else.

One part of him could almost convince himself that he would be fine if they had actually finished what they'd started at Charles' house and had had real actual sex. Another, much larger part of him, however, was worried that he wanted more than that. Well, that part was in bad luck then, because it couldn't happen. No closeted men. And that was the end of that.

But was it really?

 

His thoughts were interrupted when his phone rang.

"Hey, Raven."

"Erik! How are you?"

She sounded hyper and good-humoured, but that was no surprise, as she did so most of the time.

"Fine," he lied.

"I've been thinking of you today, so I thought I'd call."

"OK."

"Erik, you're doing this wrong. You're supposed to ask me why I've been thinking of you."

Erik sighed. He was quite sure that she wanted to tell him something, but he didn't think he would be interested in anything she had to say right now.

"Raven, what is it?"

"Well, OK, since you're asking, I'm going to tell you." she laughed. "Do you remember last Monday when you had dinner with Hank and me?"

"Yeah, of course."

"You know we talked about my brother, Charles?"

Erik stood up straight, his heart suddenly beating harder and faster. He'd been wrong. He was very interested in what she had to say.

"Yeah, I do."

"Well, you were right about him."

Erik's heart was beating so hard now, he could feel it in his throat.

"I.... I was?" He caught himself. "About what?" he added quickly.

"About him being gay." She laughed. "I guess I was a bit blind. Well, incredibly blind actually."

Erik could hardly focus on what she was saying. He felt overwhelmed and elated at the same time. But he needed to know one thing.

"Raven"

"It's so obvious to me now. There were all these signs that I just ignored."

"Raven"

"I mean, him never having had a girlfriend, his lack of interest in "

"Raven, how did you find out?"

"Oh, he told me himself. Last night. It sort of seemed like he suddenly didn't want to keep any secrets anymore. I don't know where that came from, though. Seemed like a pretty spontaneous thing, you know."

Erik had to sit down. A number of possibilities had started to whirl around in his head. He could hardly think straight.

"Anyway, I know how much you enjoy being right about things, so I thought I'd tell you. Now I won't bother you anymore with my gossip." She laughed again.

Erik quickly cast around for something to say. He really wanted to be bothered with this particular gossip. But he couldn't tell her that. Not without making an idiot of himself.

"Did he say anything else?"

Very smooth, Erik.

"Erm.... Why?"

"Don't know, just asking."

"You know, you don't have to pretend to be interested just because you know I'm dying to gossip about this."

"Well, I'm a good friend, Raven."

She laughed loudly.

"You really are! Well, since you're so eager to know," she said ironically, "he did mention that he's taken a fancy to someone, but I was unable to find out who he was talking about."

Erik had to take a deep breath. Now did this actually mean what he thought it meant?

"No hints?"

"Some, but not enough. I'm pretty sure that I know him, although I have no idea who it could be. But Charles said that he's gay and probably available."

Erik's heart beat so fast now, it felt as though it was going to jump out of his chest. Could this really be a coincidence?

Raven chuckled.

"You're not interested at all, are you?"

"What?"

"You're not interested in what I'm saying, are you?"

"I.... Well...."

A sudden and horrible thought struck him.

"Raven, do you know a guy called Logan Howlett?"

"Logan? Yeah, he's a friend of Charles', a police officer. I've met him a few times. Why?"

His heart sank.

"Oh, nothing, I just.... I saw them together this week at" He caught himself just in time. "Just in town somewhere."

"Oh, OK. How do you know Logan? Oh wait!" She added excitedly. "He isn't gay, is he?"

Erik swallowed.

"Of course! It's Logan! That makes so much sense! Wow, Erik, for once you've been a real help!" She laughed again. "Do you know him well? Logan, I mean. Damn, I know hardly anything about him."

"Not really, no..."

Erik's heart, which had been beating so fast and excitedly only a moment earlier, seemed to have stopped beating entirely. He felt thoroughly depressed.

"Too bad. I need to know more about him! Do you know anyone I could interrogate?"

"I don't know.... I don't think so." He took a deep breath and clenched his fist. "Raven, I should probably go. I've got work to do."

"Oh.... OK. Talk to you later then, I guess?"

"Yeah, sure. Bye."

"Bye, Erik."

 

Erik put his phone down on the table and rubbed both his eyes with his hands. He didn't know what to think. For a moment he had been sure that Charles must have been talking about him. But Raven was right. It did make a lot more sense for Charles to have been talking about Logan instead. Everything fit so well. And Raven didn't even know the whole story.

Erik thought back to their encounter two days ago. Logan had left Charles' house just before Erik had entered. Charles had seemed tense and then, suddenly, he had started kissing Erik. If Charles was interested in Logan, but Logan had turned him down or maybe ignored his advances, Charles would have been tense and maybe he had used Erik to let off some steam. And then, just before they'd really got started, he'd realised what he was doing, that Erik wasn't the one he actually wanted to be with, so he'd fled.

And for just a few glorious moments Erik had thought everything was going to be wonderful. He was ashamed and angry now about this moment of weakness. He'd acted like some stupid teenager who had been told that his crush fancied him as well. Pathetic.

He hadn't realised before just how much he cared about whether Charles liked him or not and who Charles wanted to be with. Right now it seemed as though his whole happiness depended on it. It was driving him mad. He wished he'd never met Charles in the first place.

His life had been going great. He'd not had a long-lasting relationship for over seven years now, but he'd enjoyed his freedom. He'd spent a few months with one guy, then a few with another, never getting too invested, never falling in love, but always enjoying each other's company. He'd been sexually attracted to all of his partners, but this was different. He found Charles incredibly sexually attractive, but he wanted more than sex and company. He wanted to really get to know Charles and learn everything about him, and he wanted Charles to feel the same way about him.

Erik took a deep breath.

It was already after 10pm and he hadn't really slept for three nights, but Erik didn't even bother to try and go to bed. He knew he wouldn't be able to sleep anyway.

He stepped outside. It was still warm and light, and many people were out on the street although it was late on a Thursday and not the weekend.

Erik just walked wherever his feet carried him. He passed the park and the town centre and walked on into the outer parts of Oxford, without really noticing where he was going.

All the while he kept thinking about Charles.

The last few days had been like a rollercoaster ride for Erik. He'd felt fury and annoyance, then regret, confusion and arousal, then hope and excitement and now, finally, he felt depressed. It wasn't easy to not get what he wanted, especially not when he wanted it so bad it kept him awake. He had to forget about this, forget about Charles, and just get back to his old life. There was no point in clinging to the idea of something he couldn't have.

And yet, the tiniest hope that he'd got it all wrong, that Raven had got it all wrong, that Charles hadn't been talking about Logan, but about Erik, made it impossible to let go.

 

He looked around. Darkness had completely fallen now and he'd long since left the town centre behind him. He found himself in a completely deserted street of one of Oxford's urban residential districts. It was lined with neat houses and looked vaguely familiar. When Erik glanced ahead, he spotted a small house with the number 25.

He shook his head, exhaling slowly. It looked like his subconscious had led him straight to the person he had been thinking about.

He stood there, undetermined, for a moment, then he glanced at his watch. It was 11:35pm, so it was much too late for a casual visit. Yet, he saw a light shine through the curtains of Charles' living room window, so he was probably still awake.

A strange daring came over him. What was there to lose? He was here now, and Charles was in there, so why didn't he just get in there and ask Charles about Logan? He'd made a complete fool of himself in front of him already. It couldn't really get any worse, could it?

Before he thought too much about this and changed his mind, he quickly strode over to Charles' door and rang the doorbell. After a few moments he heard steps approaching and the door opened.

"Erik?" Charles looked surprised to see him, but not as apprehensive as two days previously. He was wearing those ridiculously large trousers and another blue cardigan again, as well as a pair of horn-rimmed glasses. Erik almost smiled at the sight. Charles looked endearingly nerdy.

"Hey," said Erik. "Mind if I come in?"

Charles shook his head, looking confused.

"No, of course not."

He stepped aside and closed the door behind Erik.

They stood in the hallway for a moment, looking at each other, before Charles waved vaguely in the direction of his living room.

"Shall we...?"

"Yeah, sure."

They both entered the living room and Charles turned towards him.

"Would you like anything to drink? Water? Tea? Wine? Scotch?"

"I'll have what you're having," said Erik. He was getting nervous again. He had no idea how to approach the subject.

Charles nodded and disappeared into the kitchen. About a minute later he was back, two glasses of Scotch in his hands. He passed one over to Erik and sat down, gesturing for Erik to do the same. Erik chose a seat next to Charles, but left some space between them. He didn't want to make Charles uncomfortable.

They both drained their glasses in one gulp and put them down onto the coffee table. Charles shot Erik a nervous glance, then suddenly seemed to noticed that he was still wearing his glasses and took them off.

"I don't need these," he told Erik. "They're just for reading. I normally don't...." His voice trailed away. He licked his lips nervously, looking at Erik, then took a deep breath.

"I'm sorry about Tuesday," he said. "I wasn't thinking straight. I never wanted to embarrass you. I'm sorry."

Erik's heart sank. So Charles was sorry about kissing him. Erik wondered for a brief moment whether he should just get up and leave, before he made the whole situation more awkward for both of them. But he had to know for sure.

He shook his head.

"Don't worry. I guess you'd like to know why I'm here." He glanced quickly at Charles, who nodded, his blue eyes watching Erik intently, his mouth with those incredibly red lips slightly open. Erik wondered where to begin.

"Raven called me earlier today. She said you told her that you're gay."

Charles looked for a moment as though he wanted to say something, but then he just nodded again.

"That's great," said Erik. "I'm really genuinely happy for you."

Charles smiled nervously.

"Thanks," he said, but he kept looking at Erik.

Erik had no idea how to go on. He couldn't just ask Charles outright whether he was interested in Logan. But before he could think of something to say, Charles spoke again, his voice shaking slightly.

"Did she.... Did she say anything else? About what I told her?"

"Erm.... Yes.... Actually." Erik's heart was beating so fast again, it made him slightly dizzy.

"OK." Charles licked his lips again, his eyes not leaving Erik's face. "What did she say?"

Erik swallowed. He didn't think he'd ever felt so nervous in his life. He had to know the truth now.

"How well do you know Logan Howlett?" he asked.

Charles looked taken aback.

"That's what she said?" he asked in bewilderment.

Erik closed his eyes for a moment, before he spoke again.

"She said.... She reckons that you.... That you have a thing for Logan Howlett."

Charles stared at him.

"For Logan?" he asked after a moment, looking utterly confused. "What makes her think that?"

Erik's heart skipped a beat. Could this possibly mean what he thought it meant?

"Well, she got that wrong," Charles went on. "Logan and I, we're not.... Not for two years.... I mean, we used to.... But, now he's just a friend, nothing more."

Erik's heart felt as though it was going to explode now. Could this really mean that Charles had been talking about him? He felt dizzy and elated.

However, he also felt a pang of jealousy. So Charles and Logan had been a thing once?

A sudden urge to be as close to Charles as possible overcame him. He quickly closed the distance between them, grabbing Charles by the collar of his cardigan and starting to kiss him hard and impatiently. Charles, taken by surprise, fell backwards onto the sofa, Erik landing on top of him. They both looked at each other for a moment, bewildered, then Charles seized Erik by his neck and pulled him downwards, pressing their lips together.

Erik kissed him back so hard he could hardly draw a breath. He was completely overwhelmed by sudden and intense arousal. Charles' hands were in Erik's hair, on his shoulders, on his back, while he, too, kissed Erik as though his life depended on it.

Erik wanted nothing more than to bury his own hands in Charles' soft hair and touch every part of Charles he could reach, but he needed them to hold himself up. So he disengaged himself from Charles' grip for a moment, sat up, and pulled Charles on top of him, so Charles was straddling Erik. Charles, who had made a sound of protest, when Erik had moved away, wasted no time in locking lips with him again.

Erik's hands were finally free to touch whichever part of Charles' body they wanted. He sank his left hand in Charles' hair and let his right hand roam over Charles' back, while they kissed hungrily, gasping into each other's mouths.

Erik drank in every sound Charles made, every little gasp and moan, as well as the way Charles' hair and his back felt to his touch. Erik's senses were blurred. Nothing existed but Charles, and nothing was important but that they kept kissing and touching each other for all eternity.

Erik let his right hand wander downwards and grabbed Charles' bottom. It felt amazing and a whirl of imaginations filled Erik's head, while Charles gave a loud gasp and started to yank Erik's turtleneck in an effort to pull it over his head. Although Erik was dazed by his own arousal, he still had to laugh at the impatience with which Charles pulled at his clothes. He quickly came to Charles' aid and pulled the turtleneck over his own head in one swift movement. Charles' eyes roamed hungrily over Erik's chest and Erik took the opportunity to get rid of Charles' cardigan and shirt as well. They sat there for a moment, both stripped to the waist, drinking in the sight of each other's bodies, before Charles moved forward and claimed Erik's lips again, moving so close that their naked chests touched and their crotches rubbed against each other.

At the touch, an electric current seemed to shoot straight from Erik's crotch to his brain. He moaned loudly, now grasping Charles' arse with both hands and pulling him even closer towards him, causing their crotches to rub even more intensely against each other. The friction felt better than anything Erik had ever felt before, yet it still wasn't enough. He fumbled with the button of Charles' trousers, but his hands were trembling and he couldn't see what he was doing, as he didn't want to stop kissing Charles.

Suddenly, Charles drew away from him.

"Wait," he gasped, putting his own hand on top of Erik's.

Erik's heart sank. He stared at Charles in horror. Not again. Please, not again.

Charles laughed breathlessly at the look on Erik's face.

"Let's take this to the bedroom," he said, getting up quickly and taking Erik's hand to pull him up the stairs.

Erik stumbled after him, barely seeing where he was going. He hardly spared the room a glance, only taking in the king-sized bed pushed against the wall to their right.

While they moved towards it, Charles fumbled with the button of Erik's jeans, breathing heavily. Erik helped him, yanking them down along with his boxers and stepping out of them as quickly as he could, before he proceeded to take Charles' trousers and underwear off as well. When they were both naked, Charles threw himself at Erik again, kissing him wildly and pushing him backwards, until the backs of Erik's knees hit the side of the bed and he toppled onto it. Within seconds, Charles was on top of him again, straddling him.

They looked at each other for a moment, both breathing heavily, before Charles moved forwards to kiss Erik again. When Erik pulled Charles closer, their dicks touched and they both moaned loudly into each other's mouths.

Erik couldn't take it any longer. He moved his right hand downwards and grabbed both their dicks, holding them together.

"Move," he breathed out.

Charles didn't need telling twice. He started to move his hips back and forth as slowly as they both could bear, his hands propped up on either side of Erik's face, while they both looked at each other intently, gasping, with their mouths wide open. Erik lifted his left hand to Charles' face and let his thumb glide over his lips. He'd never seen anything more perfect and beautiful in his life. Charles gasped loudly and Erik let his left hand wander down Charles' back until it found Charles' buttock and Erik squeezed it. This was all he needed. Charles, naked, on top of him. Beautiful Charles, with the most amazing arse he'd ever felt. And this feeling. The best feeling in the whole world.

At the squeeze, Charles moaned loudly and picked up the pace. Erik couldn't think anymore, all he knew was that he was Charles' and this was all he lived for. He grabbed Charles' buttock even harder, panting.

He saw Charles' face contort, heard Charles moan loudly, and then he himself felt the amazing wave of pleasure hit him.

Charles toppled over on top of Erik, then rolled off of him, coming to rest with his face next to Erik's, his right arm on Erik's chest, still breathing very heavily.

Erik lifted his left hand over to Charles and gently brushed the hair out of his face. His own breathing was still heavy as well, but he felt calmer and more content than he had in days. And he finally felt tired.

He turned his face towards Charles', his nose nuzzling Charles' forehead, his hand in Charles' soft hair, his right hand gently stroking Charles' back. This was perfect. He felt more at home than he could remember ever feeling before.

 

When he woke again, it was still dark, the only source of light being a standard-lamp on the other side of the room, which Erik couldn't remember Charles switching on. He couldn't have slept for long. Charles was still lying in exactly the same position, breathing deeply now.

Erik's stomach felt sticky with semen and sweat. Maybe Charles had something he could clean himself up with. He carefully pulled his right arm out from under Charles' body, so as not to wake him and looked around for some tissues. He didn't see any, but he spotted a bedside cabinet with a drawer right next to his side of the bed.

He pulled it open very carefully, trying not to make any sound. There was a box of tissues in there. Erik smirked. He was sure he knew what Charles used those for most of the time.

As he pulled one out, a tiny piece of paper fell out of the drawer and onto the floor. Erik bent over the side of the bed and picked it up. It was a note with the name "Warren" and a phone number scribbled onto it.

Erik felt a pang of jealousy at the thought of Charles with another man. Why did he keep this guy's number in his bedside cabinet? The name sounded vaguely familiar, too. But Erik was sure he didn't know anyone by the name of Warren.

And then it hit him. The guy who had been killed in a hate crime last weekend. Killed, moreover, in this particular neighbourhood of Oxford.

Erik turned around and stared at Charles, who was still sleeping peacefully. What did Charles have to do with this crime? Could Warren possibly have been Charles' boyfriend? In that case, was Charles just using Erik to forget about his personal tragedy?

It was a terrible thought.

Erik carefully put the little note back into the drawer and closed it, before he started to clean himself up, all the while thinking about Charles and about last night. It had felt so real and intense, it was hard to believe that Charles hadn't meant any of it. It just didn't fit. Or had Erik just imagined the intensity and passion with which Charles had kissed him? He hadn't seemed desperate or depressed at all, only impatient, excited and aroused. Erik could hardly imagine that it could possibly have been an act of desperation. Or was that just what he wanted to believe?

Erik laid down next to Charles again, listening to his deep breathing and looking at him intently. He had to know for sure. But how did you address a subject like this? He couldn't just tell Charles he had been looking into his bedside drawer and come across this note.

He carefully brushed another strand of hair out of Charles' face. He looked far too beautiful just lying there, naked, freckles all over his shoulder and arms.

Erik sighed quietly. If he could just dare hope that Charles' interest in him was real. He didn't think he could bear it, if Charles had only used him.

Erik shook his head.

How was it possible that he was this far gone after only three days of knowing Charles?

Chapter Text

Chapter Nine – Charles

 

Charles was woken by the sun shining in his face through his bedroom window. He wondered for a moment why the blinds were not drawn and why he was naked, before he remembered what had happened the night before.

He quickly glanced to his side. Erik was still there.

Charles took a deep breath. He felt relieved, but nervous. This was the first time since Logan that he woke up next to a man he'd had sex with. He normally asked them to leave right afterwards or left himself, if he'd been at their place. He didn't really know what to do now. Should he prepare breakfast? It somehow felt as though that was something only people in a real relationship did. He didn't want to scare Erik off by appearing too eager or obtrusive.

Charles let his gaze wander over Erik's face. He'd never before had the chance to look at him so closely. He didn't think he'd ever seen a more handsome man. Erik looked as though a very talented sculptor had been asked to produce a replication of the perfect male form. Erik's features were very masculine. He had a strong jaw and prominent cheek bones. Even the slight ginger stubble on his cheeks suited him.

Charles sat up carefully, so as not to wake Erik, and glanced at his sleeping body. Erik laid on his back, half wrapped in the sheet Charles used as a blanket because it had been so warm this last week.

Charles itched to push it away and get a closer look at what was lying underneath. Everything had gone so fast yesterday and he had been so turned on that he hadn't even taken a closer look. Charles gave in to the urge and very carefully lifted the edge of the sheet to glance underneath it.

Charles exhaled very slowly, laughing quietly. He'd thought he remembered that Erik had a large cock, but now he saw that he definitely was a show-er. And the size was even amplified by his incredibly narrow hips. Charles stared at them for a moment in amazement, before he remembered what this would look like to Erik if he woke up now, and quickly let go of the sheet again, although with some regret.

He sat there, indecisive, for a while. He didn't know whether to wake Erik. It was Friday, so he might have an appointment. Charles glanced at his clock radio. It was almost 7 o'clock. He would have to go to work himself at some point soon.

But he should take a shower first, before he woke Erik. He felt sticky and uncomfortable in his body right now, and would probably feel a lot more self-confident when he was clean and didn't smell of sweat.

As silently as he could, Charles got up, slipped into the adjoining bathroom and closed the door behind himself.

 

When he got out of the shower, he felt wonderfully clean again.

He rubbed himself dry with his towel and was just considering how to best wake up Erik, when the bathroom door opened and Erik entered. He was completely naked.

Charles forced himself to look away from Erik's crotch and into his face.

"Good morning," Charles said, smiling.

Erik had clearly noticed Charles' look. He smiled slightly, too.

"Morning. Mind if I use your shower?"

"Not at all, no. Go ahead."

Charles quickly glanced after Erik as he passed him. So he had a good, firm arse as well. Charles smirked.

 

Charles got dressed and went downstairs into the kitchen. He would have loved to watch Erik in the shower, but that probably counted as obtrusive and possibly creepy. They weren't in a relationship after all.

While he put the kettle on, Charles contemplated what this all meant. They'd had sex and Erik had stayed the night. Was this the end of it? Would they say their goodbyes and both continue with their separate lives? The idea was horrifying. Maybe it was possible that Erik would like to see him again, too. He had, after all, come back to Charles' house, even after their disastrous encounter three days ago. And he had seemed really interested in how Charles felt about Logan. Last night, everything had seemed so clear to Charles. He had been convinced that Erik's feelings were similar to his own. That he wanted more than sex. But now he wasn't so sure anymore.

Charles shook his head. It was useless to debate whether this was going to go anywhere. All he had to do was show Erik that he was still interested, while not putting too much pressure on him. This had to be possible, even for Charles, who had about as much experience as a 12-year-old in these matters.

Charles heard muffled footsteps on the stairs and stepped out of the kitchen to see Erik, still shirtless, walk into the living room and pick up his turtleneck from the floor next to the sofa. With some regret, Charles watched Erik pull it over his head.

"Would you like some tea?" Charles called over to him. "And maybe some toast as well? I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I don't have anything else."

Erik turned around.

"Toast and tea is fine," he said.

"How do you take your tea?" Charles asked.

"No milk, no sugar," Erik replied.

Charles nodded and went back into the kitchen, where he busied himself making breakfast. This wasn't obtrusive. It was just polite. It couldn't possibly look to Erik as though Charles somehow assumed them to be in a serious relationship or anything like that, could it?

Making breakfast didn't take long. Charles carried two cups of tea into the living room and placed them on the small, round dining table, then went back into the kitchen to get the rest. When he returned, he saw Erik standing in front of Charles' large bookshelf, a book in his hand, reading the back cover. He turned towards Charles at the sound of cutlery being set down onto the table and held up the book.

"Homophobia: A History?" he asked, his eyebrows raised. "How can you read this without wanting to murder every single homophobe in the whole world? Just reading the back cover makes me want to get out there and do it."

Charles sighed.

"It's research, Erik. It's my job. And I just don't think fighting violence with violence is a very good idea. But I told you so before."

Erik shook his head, but he didn't speak.

Charles looked at him, slightly worried. He didn't want to fight with Erik again, and it somehow looked like Erik didn't want to either.

"Would you like some breakfast now?" Charles asked timidly.

Erik nodded and walked over to him.

 

While they ate, they talked very little. Erik seemed rather reserved and Charles wondered whether their brief discussion had angered him once more. Every once in a while, Erik shot Charles a calculating look, but he didn't bring up the subject again.

When they had finished, they sat for a moment in silence, before Erik spoke.

"I guess I better get going now."

Charles' heart sank. He didn't know what to do now. He couldn't just let Erik leave like that.

"Can I call you?" he asked quickly.

Erik looked surprised.

"You.... You want to?"

"Well, only if you...."

They both looked at each other for a moment. Then Charles quickly fumbled for his phone in his pocket.

"If you could just tell me your number, then I'll call you. Or I give you mine and you can call me. Or we both exchange them and...."

He sounded like an idiot.

Erik, however, had taken out his phone, too, and nodded.

"Right. Go on then."

 

All day, Charles found it incredibly hard to concentrate. He was supposed to compose an exam for next week, but he kept messing up the spelling and confounding topics of the current and last term.

Every few minutes he would pick up his phone and check whether Erik had called or texted him, while preventing himself from calling Erik, so as not to appear to eager.

After lunch, however, he couldn't bear it anymore. Erik hadn't been in touch yet and Charles needed to know whether they were going to see each other again, so he composed a text message.

"Would you like to have dinner at my place tonight? Charles."

Charles looked at the text intently for a moment, then he deleted it again. That sounded as though he was asking Erik out on a date, which, strictly speaking, he was, but making this too obvious might make Erik feel uncomfortable or pressured. No, he needed something more casual. He typed again.

"How about dinner at my place tonight? Charles."

Right, this sounded more like a night out with a mate. Not exactly what Charles had had in mind, either, but at least it was casual. He let his finger hover over the 'send' button for a moment, then he took a deep breath and pushed it. He'd hardly had time to panic about whether the whole thing had been a bad idea after all, when his phone vibrated with Erik's answer.

"OK. What time? Erik"

Charles' heart beat faster. He had to calm himself. This didn't necessarily mean anything. Erik might just be after sex again.

"How about 6pm? Charles."

Just when he'd sent his reply, he realised with a sinking feeling in his stomach that Erik would probably expect him to cook for both of them. Well, that was a problem. He probably missed out on the title of the worst cook in town only because Raven was a resident of Oxford as well. The only dishes he really managed not to spoil were pasta basics. Before he had decided how to solve this problem, however, his phone vibrated again.

"Sounds good to me. Want me to bring anything? Erik"

Charles hesitated for a moment. The question was whether it was better to embarrass himself now or later this evening. He decided that now would be less mortifying as he didn't actually have to see Erik's face.

"How about take-out? I'm not exactly master chef material. Charles."

As he pressed 'send,' he closed his eyes for a short moment. Way to go, Charles. He was well on the way to making himself look like an enormous idiot.

Erik didn't seem to find it weird, however. Or at least he didn't express those thoughts in his next message.

"Chinese? Erik"

"Sounds great! See you at 6pm. Charles."

Charles breathed in and out very slowly. Only a few more hours of work and then he would be seeing Erik again.

 

Charles arrived back home at a quarter to 6pm. He rushed upstairs and spent 10 minutes in front of his wardrobe, debating what to wear. Erik had quite clearly found him attractive in the tight jeans and shirt he'd worn last Monday, but wouldn't it be awkwardly obvious what Charles was trying to do? But if he just kept the clothes on that he had worn this morning, it might look as though he wasn't making an effort at all. And he was already making Erik get dinner, so some effort would surely be appropriate?

Charles grabbed the jeans and blue shirt and put them on. He had just finished buttoning up his shirt when the doorbell rang.

Charles hastened downstairs to open the door.

"Hey," he said a little breathlessly.

Erik was standing there, carrying a plastic bag and looking shamelessly handsome in very well-fitting jeans and a black shirt.

"Hey," he replied, handing the bag over to Charles, his eyes roaming over Charles' body.

Charles' heart started to beat faster.

"I guess we should eat straightaway, while it's still warm," he said and gestured for Erik to follow him into the house.

 

The food was excellent. Much better than it would have been if Charles had actually attempted to cook for both of them.

Furthermore, they were able to have an actual, normal conversation while they ate, discussing their jobs. Charles was genuinely interested in what Erik did as a freelance photographer and Erik seemed very passionate about his job. He quite obviously enjoyed talking about the different projects he had worked on and which of them he'd liked the most.

When Charles talked about his own research and job as a professor, Erik seemed very interested as well. After a while, however, Charles got the impression that Erik was sizing him up while he spoke. Erik looked at Charles so intently, it appeared as though he was trying to catch him doing something weird. It was slightly unnerving. After a few minutes, Charles couldn't take it anymore.

"Do I have something on my face?" he asked.

Erik looked at him, confused.

"What?"

"The way you look at me, I.... Do I look weird somehow?"

Erik seemed to consider for a moment.

"Are you feeling alright?" he asked then.

"Feeling alright?" Charles had no idea what was going on.

"I mean, you don't look sad or depressed to me, but are you OK?"

This was getting more and more confusing.

"Why would I be sad or depressed?"

Erik shook his head.

"Just.... I don't know." Erik closed his eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath. "This crime last weekend. It happened right around the corner, didn't it?"

Charles' heart sank. He really didn't want to talk about this. He'd been very successfully pushing it away into the furthest corners of his mind these last days. He swallowed.

"Yes. That's right."

Erik nodded slowly, his eyes never leaving Charles' face.

"I, erm.... Did you.... Did you know the guy?"

"I.... What makes you think that?"

Charles hadn't meant his voice to sound so shrill, but he really didn't want to discuss Warren right now, and least of all with Erik.

Erik looked as though a suspicion of his had just been confirmed. He leant back in his chair, closing his eyes and clenching his fists. When he opened them again, he looked at Charles with a pained look on his face.

"Last night I looked for some tissues in the drawer of your bedside cabinet. You were already asleep, or I would have asked you, instead of looking myself," he added, a little apologetically. "Well, I came across a note with a phone number and his name on it, and I sort of put two and two together."

Charles nodded slowly. He still didn't feel like talking about the incidence, but at least he didn't have to hide it from Erik now.

Erik took a deep breath.

"I understand that you're extremely upset. That was a terrible thing to happen."

"Yeah, it really was," said Charles, not looking at Erik. "It was a great shock. But I'm dealing alright now. Life goes on, you know."

Charles looked up to find Erik staring at him in disbelief.

"You know, I'm not the person to lecture you about how to deal with tragedies," Erik said, "but even I know that the way you're doing it is pretty fucked up."

Charles felt a pang of anger and hurt, but he was also extremely confused.

"What do you mean? What am I doing?"

"What are you doing? You don't know that?" Erik shook his head angrily.

"No, I really don't," said Charles. He was genuinely bemused now.

"You're using me to get over it. That's what you're doing. But I'm sorry, I'm not a fucking doormat, Charles!" Erik had gotten up from his seat now. His fists were clenched and he looked extremely upset.

"I... What?" Charles had no idea what was going on. "Erik, why would I be using you? I don't get it. And to get over what? What happened to Warren was terrible, but it's not like I knew him that well."

Erik froze. He gave Charles a startled look.

"You.... You didn't?"

"No, I.... What did you think?"

Erik sat down again. It was his turn to look utterly confused now. After a moment, he spoke again.

"So you and Warren, you weren't.... A thing?"

Charles looked at him, bewildered. Then, suddenly, he got it.

"Christ, no! Is that what you've been thinking?"

He could hardly believe it. So this had been bothering Erik so much? He'd thought that Charles had been in love with Warren?

Erik still looked confused.

"But why was his number in the drawer of your bedside cabinet?"

"Well...." Charles really didn't want to discuss this with Erik, but what other choice did he have?

"He was here and—" Charles took a deep breath. "But that was the first time I'd seen him in my life. I didn't know anything about him apart from his name."

Erik looked at him. He seemed to relax a little.

"Does anybody know about this? Does Raven know?"

Charles gave a sad little laugh.

"Of course she doesn't. It's been only two days since I told her that I'm gay. Logan knows," he added. "But that's because he works on the investigation. He's a police officer, in case you didn't know."

Charles looked at Erik intently, before he went on trying to explain the situation.

"Those last few days have been pretty rough. It felt.... It still feels as though it was at least partly my fault because I asked Warren to wait outside for the cab. I never wanted this to happen to him. I liked him. But that's it. I hardly knew him."

Charles exhaled very slowly. Although he really hadn't wanted to talk about this, he actually felt lighter, now that he wasn't hiding anything from Erik anymore. He had been so used to keeping half his life hidden from everybody else that he had almost forgotten how liberating honesty could be. Charles felt the sudden urge to be completely open with Erik.

"Listen, I don't know how you feel about this, but—" He took another deep breath. "I don't want this to be just about sex. I've had enough of that to last me a lifetime."

Erik raised his eyebrows. He was actually wearing a slightly teasing smile now.

"You've had enough of sex?"

Charles laughed for the first time today.

"God, no! I just meant.... I don't want any more meaningless sex. I want more than that."

Erik looked at Charles with an almost soft expression Charles had never seen on him before.

"I'm not here for meaningless sex either. You know, I really want this." Erik shook his head slightly, still looking at Charles. "It's been driving me nuts, actually. I normally don't mess about with closeted guys, but you—"

"I know that," said Charles quickly. "You made that very clear on Monday. No, don't apologise!" He added, when Erik opened his mouth to speak, a pained expression on his face. "It upset me pretty bad then, but I'm sure I would never have found the courage to come out to Raven if it hadn't been for your, well, harsh but honest words. I'm much happier now."

Charles shot Erik another look. Erik seemed to be struggling with himself. He was still wearing that pained expression, but he didn't speak.

Charles laughed a little nervously.

"You know, it scares the hell out of me, but I know now that I really want to live the way you do. Ultimately, I want the whole world to know who I really am, so I don't have to hide anymore, but—" He swallowed. "I'm not sure, I'm ready for that yet."

"What are you afraid of? Do you think something might happen to you like it did to Warren?" There was no trace of accusation in Erik's voice anymore. His tone was almost soft and he sounded a little concerned.

"I don't even know," said Charles. "Probably my family's reaction. My stepfather is.... Not very understanding and tolerant. And my stepbrother Cain—" Charles shook his head. "I honestly have no idea how he would react."

"Because he's got a temper?" asked Erik. "Raven told me about him," he added in answer to Charles' questioning look.

Charles gave a humourless laugh.

"Yeah, you could say that. I prefer the word 'maniac' though. And he's got the weirdest ideas about family honour, too. Did Raven tell you about the instance when he overheard an employee call his father a 'money-grubbing pansy who only slept his way up the corporate ladder'?"

When Erik shook his head, Charles went on.

"Well, Cain actually followed the guy home and beat him to a pulp. I'm not sure either, which part of the phrase he found most insulting. Probably the 'pansy' part, as the rest is actually true."

Erik shook his head in disbelief.

"Was he convicted?"

"Oh yes," Charles answered. "He had to pay an awful lot of money. My stepfather was absolutely livid. Cain tried to pretend he'd never been to the guy's home, but, with the help of DNA evidence, they could prove pretty easily that he was lying. Anyway," he added with a sigh. "I have to admit that I'm worried about what his reaction would be."

Erik nodded, but he was frowning.

"I get that, I really do. But I think you shouldn't care as much about what they're thinking about you. Honestly, people like that.... They don't deserve your consideration. Do you even see a lot of your family?"

Charles shook his head.

"Not really. Only at Christmas. Although I have seen Cain hang around town a lot recently, but I didn't speak to him because I didn't want him to see me" he added as an afterthought.

Erik raised his eyebrows and Charles went on.

"Do you know the Glory?"

"The gay bar? Yeah, I've been there a few times. Why?"

"Well, I used to go there a lot," said Charles. "But recently Cain has sort of made himself at home at the White Horse, which is the pub just around the corner. Obviously I didn't want him to see me going in and out of the Glory, so I avoided him best I could."

Charles sighed deeply.

"But you're right. I shouldn't care about what Cain and Kurt think of me. They're not worth it." He gave Erik a timid smile. "I'm working on it, not quite there yet."

They looked at each other for a long moment, then Erik leant over towards Charles and kissed him. It was nothing like the kisses they had shared the night before. There was no gasping into each other's mouths or biting each other's lips, yet it was a hundred times more intimate. Erik's hand was in Charles' hair and his lips felt much softer than they had done the last time. Charles drank in every smell and every tender touch. He'd never been kissed like this before. He wished it would never end.

After an eternity, yet far too quickly, they broke apart.

Erik got up from his chair and stretched out a hand, which Charles took, then he led Charles up the stairs into the bedroom.

Right in front of the bed, Erik turned around to face Charles again. He lifted his right hand up to Charles' cheek, then leant forward to kiss him again. Standing up, Charles had to tilt his head back a little because Erik was quite a bit taller than him. Charles' heart began beating much faster, as Erik placed his left arm around Charles' waist and pulled him closer, so their bodies were touching in several places. This was the closest he'd ever felt to someone. Charles put both his arms around Erik's waist and leant into the kiss. They kissed slowly and intimately for a long time, before Erik moved his hands to Charles' collar and started unbuttoning his shirt without any hurry.

Although the kiss had been more tender than sexual, Charles' cock had reacted to it, and, telling by the feeling of pressure against Charles' stomach, so had Erik's. However, Erik took his time undressing Charles. When Erik had removed Charles' shirt, he leant forwards and kissed the side of Charles' neck, slowly moving downwards towards his collarbone, pressing tender kisses on Charles' pale skin, while his hands caressed Charles' lower back.

Charles just stood there, his arms around Erik's waist, his eyes closed, drinking in the feel of Erik's lips and hands on him, while his breathing became heavier and heavier. After a short while, Charles lifted his hands up and started unbuttoning Erik's shirt, so he could touch Erik's naked skin as well.

Charles could tell by the sound of Erik's breathing that he wasn't the only one who was getting more and more aroused, but Erik didn't pick up the pace. Instead, he very slowly reached for the button of Charles' jeans and opened it. Before he pulled them down, however, he turned Charles around and gently pushed him backwards. Charles got the hint and clambered onto the bed, where he laid down on his back, looking up at Erik, with his mouth open and his mind dazed from arousal.

Erik climbed up after him, knelt down in front of Charles and reached forward to pull Charles' jeans and boxers over his hips and legs. He dropped them over the side of the bed, his eyes never leaving Charles' body. Charles could now see Erik's face properly again. Erik's mouth was open as well and his breath came in long and deep gasps, as he leant forward and placed a kiss on Charles' stomach, just underneath his navel. Charles gasped. The tender touch had sent sparks right to his brain and yet it wasn't nearly enough. Erik very slowly kissed a trail downwards towards Charles' cock, without touching it. Charles could hardly take it anymore. Erik's lips felt amazing on his skin, but he needed more now.

As Erik's lips finally touched upon the base of his cock, Charles let out an involuntary moan. He heard Erik moan quietly as well, then he felt more kisses on his cock going upwards, from the base to the tip.

Charles was going crazy now. This was perfect and yet, it wasn't nearly enough. Thankfully, it seemed that Erik felt quite the same way, as he wrapped his lips around the tip of Charles' cock and started slowly moving his head up and down.

At this point, everything else seemed to disappear. Charles closed his eyes, but he wouldn't have been able to see properly anyway. All that existed was Erik, handsome and wonderful Erik, infuriating Erik, who had now put his hands on Charles' hips to stop him from thrusting them upwards. And Erik's mouth on Charles' cock, which felt magnificent and unbearable at the same time. And Erik again, who seemed to notice every time Charles was about to tip over the edge and took a short, maddening break, before he started again, very slowly. And then, he didn't. Instead, he took his hands off Charles' hips, caught hold of Charles' hand and squeezed it firmly, which Charles understood as a signal to finally let go, and so he did. He thrust his hips upwards a few times, before he was overcome by indescribable, magnificent pleasure, and he slumped down again, breathing heavily and reaching out a trembling hand to Erik to pull him close to himself.

Slowly, as his breathing became less heavy and his body relaxed, his senses came back to him and he became aware of his surroundings again. Charles could have laid there forever, breathing in the scent of Erik's hair and feeling more at peace than ever before.

However, after a while, Charles noticed that Erik was tense in his arms and that he was still in his jeans, so Charles reached down and unbuttoned them, before he slid his hand quickly inside and wrapped it around Erik's still brick hard cock. Erik gasped, and Charles started moving his hand best he could within the constriction of Erik's jeans. He didn't think that now was the moment to go slowly. There would be enough time next time.

It didn't take long, as Erik had clearly been on the edge for quite a while. After a few pulls, he moaned loudly and Charles felt Erik's cock pulsating and wetness hitting his right hand.

After a moment, when Erik had relaxed back into his arms, Charles pulled his right hand out of Erik's jeans and fumbled for a tissue in the drawer of his bedside cabinet with his other hand.

Charles cleaned himself and turned back towards Erik, but he seemed to have fallen asleep. Charles smiled at the relaxed expression on Erik's face and snuggled up even closer to him, so Charles' nose was touching Erik's cheek. He breathed in deeply.

This was perfect. He never wanted it to be any different. How could anybody think that this was wrong or something to be ashamed of? It was the most beautiful thing in the world.

As Charles laid there, quietly listening to Erik's deep and regular breathing, an idea formed in his mind and he came to a decision.

Chapter Text

Chapter Ten – Raven

 

Raven woke up in the very best mood. It was Saturday, so she didn't have to go to work. Hank had finished his last exam of the term the day before and finally didn't have to study anymore. On top of everything, the weather was miraculously still perfect and she couldn't wait to spend the day with him.

During a very late breakfast they discussed their options for the remaining day.

"I think we should go hiking or something like that."

"Raven, no. It's far too hot," said Hank with a slightly worried expression. "We will get burned alive."

"Well, how about the pool then?"

"I don't know...."

"Hank, your feet are fine. Nobody will look at them."

"Of course they will. People always do. They're enormous and they look weird."

Raven sighed.

"I assure you, there's nothing wrong with your feet. But alright. What do you want to do?"

Hank shrugged.

"I don't know. Something quiet."

"How about we just go to the park and relax then?"

"I don't know, Raven.... In the shade?"

Raven laughed.

"Yes, alright. In the shade."

The doorbell rang.

Wondering who would call on them at 11am on a Saturday, Raven got up from her chair and went to the front door to answer.

"Charles, hey."

He looked a little nervous.

"Hello, Raven. Do you have a moment?"

"Sure, come in."

They walked inside together and, after Charles and Hank had greeted each other, they all sat down at the dining table.

Raven looked at Charles expectantly.

"So, what is it?"

He bit his lip for a moment, before he spoke.

"When will the next issue of your magazine be released?"

"Next Tuesday. Why?"

"And when does printing start?"

"Monday morning. Why, Charles?"

"So, theoretically you could still change parts of the interview, right?"

She looked at him, surprised.

"Why would you want to change anything? It was great!"

"Yeah, I guess...." He licked his lips, which he always did when he was very nervous.

"Charles, what do you want to change?"

He took a deep breath.

"I.... You know.... I think it was one of the best decisions of my life so far to tell you that I'm gay."

"Right...." She didn't quite know what this had to do the interview. "I'm glad you feel that way. I'm very happy you told me, too."

Charles nodded, smiling slightly.

"Well, thing is.... I want other people to know as well. I want everyone to know."

"OK...." Raven was stunned. Was he really saying what she thought he was saying?

"Raven, do you think there's a possibility that, well, that you could work it somehow into the interview?"

She stared at him. She couldn't quite comprehend the fact that this was actually Charles talking. Charles, who had hidden the fact that he was gay for years and years without even telling her. Charles, who had always been a rather private person. What the hell had brought this about?

"Just to be clear: You want your coming-out to be published in a magazine with many, many readers, especially in Oxford?"

For a moment he looked astonished by his own daring, but then he nodded.

Raven couldn't help herself. She burst out laughing.

"Who are you and what have you done with my brother?"

Charles shook his head, but he was smiling.

"It's the right thing to do," he said. "It's a statement as well as a coming-out in combination with the interview. And it gives me the freedom to act just the way I want to without hiding anything, because there won't be any speculation about me. People will just know and I won't even have to tell them all. That's great, right?" He looked excited now.

Raven could still hardly believe what she was hearing. But she had to admit that Charles was right. It did make sense. However, one thing was still incomprehensible to her.

"Where is this coming from, Charles? Come on, someone must have given you that idea."

He didn't answer. A slight blush was visible on his cheeks. Raven felt a wave of excitement.

"Oooooh! Is it your mystery man? Is he interested after all?"

He was definitely blushing now. Raven made a triumphant sound.

"Awesome! And, guess what, you don't even have to tell me who he is because I already know."

Charles looked at her for a moment, then he started to laugh.

This was a little weird. What was funny about that?

"What?" She asked, a little annoyed.

"Nothing," he said, but he was still chuckling. Raven hated it when Charles knew something she didn't and then acted like that.

"What?" she asked again, more emphatically this time.

"You think it's Logan, don't you?" He'd stopped laughing now, but he was still looking amused.

What the hell?

"Charles, how—"

"Never mind that now. Would you help me?"

"Help you with what?" She was still a little miffed that he'd laughed at her.

"Go over the interview and work it in there somehow."

She raised her eyebrows and he sighed.

"I'm sorry I laughed. And I promise I will tell you everything very soon, just not today, alright?"

"Why not?"

"It's just still very novel and confusing. Let me sort out my own head first, please."

She could never be cross with him for very long. She sighed, too.

"You know, I would love to help you, but Hank and I were actually planning to do something together today—"

"I don't mind," chimed in Hank quickly. "We can all stay here and you can work on the article. Sounds great to me, actually."

Raven raised her eyebrows at him. She knew that he'd been looking for a reason to stay in the house while it was so warm outside.

"Alright then," she said. "But I have to call Emma first and ask her what she thinks. I can't make such major decisions on my own."

 

Emma, as it turned out, loved the idea.

"Oh yes! That personal note makes the whole thing much more interesting. Finish it today, will you? And then send it to me, please, so I can have a look."

Raven hadn't exactly imagined spending this Saturday inside and working, but now she had to admit that it was fun and exciting.

They added an extra small section to the interview, in which Charles talked about his own experience of fearing to tell people the truth about his homosexuality because of the existing intolerance. They tried very hard to make this new section support and complement the scientific facts, instead of drawing the attention away of them. It took them some time to get it right, but after about 3 hours they were happy with the result.

Charles stared at the computer screen, at the line within the interview which contained the words "I, myself, am a gay man." and exhaled slowly.

"So that's it then."

Raven watched him closely. He looked a little scared, but also excited and relieved. She felt a rush of pride and affection for her brother.

"You know, this is probably the gutsiest thing you have ever done. And that includes the one time you told Cain to go fuck himself."

Charles laughed a little nervously.

"Well, I hope this doesn't go nearly as badly. I think I might still have the bruises resulting from that particular act of bravery."

Raven chuckled.

"Yeah, that was pretty bad. But this is great! Honestly! And have I told you that your story will be the cover story, too?"

Charles looked startled.

"No, you haven't. But I hope this doesn't mean that my face—"

"Of course that's what it means, Charles. That's why it's called a cover story." She rolled her eyes. "But don't worry. The photos look amazing. Erik's done an incredible job. Just wait until you see them!"

He opened his mouth for a moment as though he wanted to say something but seemed to think better of it.

"Honestly, Charles. If you want the story out there, you might as well catch the eye of everyone who knows you. And the picture we chose looks that good, it will probably catch the eye of a lot of other people, too."

She grinned.

Charles looked more nervous now, but he was obviously still determined. He took a deep breath.

"OK then, send it to Emma."

"Great!"

Raven hit the 'send' button and they looked at each other.

"I guess this calls for more celebration?" Raven asked, grinning.

Charles laughed.

"I'm not getting drunk again. And I can't stay very long."

"Ooooh, other plans?"

"Maybe," he said, smiling.

She jabbed him playfully in the ribs.

"You bloody tease! Come on, let's at least have a pint or something."

He shook his head.

"I'm driving."

Raven sighed.

"OK, how about a very celebratory glass of water then? This is an important moment!" She added, when he raised his eyebrows at her. "And we should also have some lunch, I'm starving!"

 

In the end, she convinced Charles to stay for lunch.

Besides really wanting to celebrate this great step in his life, she was hoping to get Charles to tell her more about his mystery man. Obviously, she had been wrong about Logan, although she couldn't quite understand how Charles could have known about this suspicion of hers. Well, she usually could get Charles to tell her anything if she only kept at it.

Charles and Hank were in the kitchen, preparing sandwiches, while Raven waited in the living room, flicking through her phone. Both of them had explicitly told her to stay out of the kitchen and she wasn't going to argue with them.

A phone vibrated and it wasn't hers. She looked around. Charles had left his phone on the dining table and it looked like someone was calling him. Raven cast a quick glance in the direction of the kitchen, but it didn't look like Charles had noticed.

Raven sat undecided for a moment. Was it a serious abuse of confidence if she checked who was calling her brother? It wasn't as though she was reading his texts or anything, she just wanted a name.

Making up her mind, she quickly got up and strode over to the table to glance at Charles' phone, which was still ringing. When she read the name on the display, she gasped in surprise.

What the hell? Erik? How was that possible? They didn't even really know each other.

Within seconds, Raven's brain gathered all the information it had on Charles and Erik. Charles had asked her about Erik after the interview. He'd been most curiously interested in him. He'd also expressed that he thought Erik hadn't liked him, and a few days later he had told Raven that he suspected that his mystery man didn't feel the same way about him. And Raven had told Erik that she suspected Charles to be interested in Logan!

Raven stood there for a moment, stunned. She really had been incredibly blind once again.

The phone was still ringing.

After another moment's hesitation, Raven grabbed it and picked up the call.

"Charles! I was just about to hang up. Listen, I think I could be at your place at 6. Does that sound alright?"

It was definitely her Erik speaking. And she had never heard him sound so excited.

"Charles? Are you there?"

Raven couldn't hold herself back any longer.

"Oh my God, Erik!"

There was silence at the other end of the line for a moment. Then Erik spoke again.

"Raven?"

"It's you! I can't believe it! It really is you!"

Charles and Hank came into the living room, both with questioning looks on their faces. They clearly had heard her excited exclamations. Charles threw a look at the spot on the table where his phone had been lying a moment ago, then he looked at Raven.

"Raven, did you—"

"It's Erik, Charles! Oh my God, it's Erik! This is so bloody perfect!"

"Raven, you can't just pick up my calls!"

"Raven, where is Charles?"

She laughed loudly and handed the phone over to Charles.

"There you go. Your boyfriend's on the phone."

She watched in amusement as Charles glared at her, before he spoke into his phone.

"Erik?.... Yeah, I'm sorry about that. She just picked it up, when I wasn't there.... Yeah, that's right.... Well, it's a surprise actually. I'll tell you later.... No, she just guessed. Why did you call?.... Yeah, that sounds great.... Absolutely. I'm looking forward to it.... See you, bye."

He hung up and glared at Raven again.

"What the hell, Raven? Have you ever heard of privacy before or is that a completely foreign concept to you?"

He looked really angry. Raven almost felt bad about her behaviour. Almost.

"Oh come on. You left it lying on the bloody dining table for everyone to see. I wasn't even going to pick up. It rang and I just checked, and then it was Erik. Erik! And I just had to answer, Charles. I had no choice. It was Erik!"

"Well, you can't just call him 'my boyfriend', when he can hear you! He's going to think that I came up with that term when I talked to you." Charles looked panicky now.

"What's the big deal?"

"The big deal? Raven, this is completely new, no labels, nothing. We haven't talked about what we are yet. And now he's going to think that I'm assuming him to be my boyfriend."

"OK, OK, calm down! What the hell is your problem? That's what you want, isn't it?"

"Yes, but.... He can't think.... He'll be.... I don't want to put any pressure on him." Raven had never heard Charles splutter like that. She giggled.

"God, you're adorable! Well, you can't sneak around each other forever. I think honesty is always best, don't you?"

Charles still looked slightly panicky. Raven sighed.

"Listen, Erik knows me. He knows what I'm like. He's not going to run away now. And if he does, I'm going to kick his arse," she added, smiling brightly.

When Charles didn't say anything she put her arms around him and pulled him into a tight hug.

"You know what? I'm incredibly happy for you. Erik's a great friend and I'm sure he'll be a fantastic boyfriend, too. No, don't panic again!" she added quickly, as Charles tensed up in her arms, and let go of him to look into his eyes.

"OK, I won't say the word 'boyfriend' again until you do. No labels, I promise." She grinned. "Right then. Why don't we all sit down, eat our lunch, and you tell me all the dirty little details?"

Charles smiled feebly, but then he sat down and took a large gulp of water out of his glass, while Hank hurried into the kitchen to get the sandwiches.

 

As it turned out, Charles wasn't keen on spilling the beans about what exactly had happened between him and Erik those last few days, so Raven was quite sure they had barely left the bedroom. What he did let slip, however, was that he had apparently met Erik last week, and their encounter hadn't gone very well, which was why he'd assumed that Erik couldn't possibly feel the same way about him.

"But you didn't give up, did you?" Raven said, a little proud of her brother.

"Well, actually...." Charles smiled slightly. "Actually, Erik came to see me. Though that was just to show me the pictures he'd taken. But then.... Yeah." He blushed again.

"What then, Charles?" asked Raven, grinning.

Charles cleared his throat.

"I think I better go now."

Raven laughed.

"Oh right. You need to get yourself ready for your date at 6."

"Raven...."

"What? I didn't say 'boyfriend'."

Charles shook his head, but he was smiling at the same time. He got up and pocketed his phone.

"Thanks for the food, Hank. Raven, don't you dare call Erik and interrogate him before I've given you permission to do it."

"What? You're actually leaving? Hang on! I know hardly anything!"

Charles laughed, but didn't respond. Raven sprang to her feet.

"OK, let me at least invite the two of you over for dinner or something. I need to know more about this!"

She hugged her brother.

"Not yet," he said. "Maybe in a few days. Please give us time to figure this out by ourselves, OK?"

"Alright," she said, still hugging him. "But I will call you at least once every day, just so you know."

Charles laughed again.

"That I can live with. Thank you for doing this for me today."

She gave him a tight squeeze.

"You know, I'm genuinely very happy and excited for you. This probably sounds cheesy, but I think your life is just about to really start."

She let go of him and they faced each other. Raven had never seen Charles look so happy and optimistic.

"You know what? I think you might be right."

Chapter Text

Chapter Eleven – Erik

 

"Thank you very much. I will see you on Tuesday. Goodbye."

Erik hung up the phone.

This didn't sound like fun. He'd just accepted a job offer in London, where he was supposed to take photographs for the publicity campaign of a large network provider. Those kinds of jobs were totally uninteresting artistically, but they paid well and Erik had bills to pay, so he had to accept them whenever he got an offer like this. At least Charles would probably be working next Tuesday, too, so they wouldn't miss out on any time they could otherwise have spent together.

Charles.

Erik smiled. He couldn't wait to get back to Charles' house this evening. He had a few more phone calls to make and a couple of offers to prepare for some minor jobs, but then he would be free to see Charles again. If he allowed some extra time for freshening up, he should be able to make it by 6pm. Hopefully Charles had no obligations or plans for tomorrow. Erik couldn't imagine any way he'd rather spend his Sunday than alone with Charles in his bedroom, preferably naked, only getting out occasionally to have some food.

This morning they hadn't set up a time for the evening, only arranged that Erik would come back to Charles' place, as Erik hadn't known yet how much work he'd have to do. But now he knew, it would be best to call Charles and tell him. He longed to hear his voice again anyway.

Charles' phone rang for ages. Erik had just come to the conclusion that Charles probably didn't have his phone on him when he finally picked up.

"Charles! I was just about to hang up. Listen, I think I could be at your place at 6. Does that sound alright?"

There was no answer.

"Charles? Are you there?"

"Oh my God, Erik!"

It wasn't Charles' voice. It was female and definitely far too excited.

"Raven?"

"It's you! I can't believe it! It really is you!"

There was a remote sound at the other end.

"It's Erik, Charles! Oh my God, it's Erik! This is so bloody perfect!"

Erik heard Charles' voice in the distance.

"Raven, you can't just pick up my calls!"

"Raven, where is Charles?"

Raven laughed loudly. Then Erik heard rustling.

"There you go. Your boyfriend's on the phone."

Boyfriend? What did Raven know?

The next voice Erik heard was Charles'.

"Erik?"

"Charles. Why has Raven got your phone?"

"Yeah, I'm sorry about that. She just picked it up, when I wasn't there."

"So, you're at her place?"

"Yeah, that's right."

"What are you doing there?"

"Well, it's a surprise actually. I'll tell you later."

"Did you tell her about.... what happened between us?"

"No, she just guessed. Why did you call?"

"Oh, I think I can be at your place at about 6. Does that suit you?"

"Yeah, that sounds great."

"Good. I'll see you later then?"

"Absolutely. I'm looking forward to it."

"Me too. Bye, Charles."

"See you, bye."

Charles hung up and Erik stared at his phone for a moment. So Raven knew. Well, that made things much more straightforward. There would be no hiding now. She would probably press for every single detail.

How would Charles cope with this? He was Raven's brother, so he was familiar with her rather intrusive nature, but then, he had only just told her that he was gay, and he might not be comfortable discussing it with her yet.

And Raven had referred to Erik as Charles' 'boyfriend'. Was this just Raven being annoying or had Charles actually hinted that he now had a 'boyfriend' without telling her who it was? Was this how Charles defined what was going on between them or was it Raven's take on it? Erik had never really used the term 'boyfriend' for any of his partners. It just hadn't seemed fitting, far too emotional for the arrangements they'd had. But now.... The idea of calling Charles his boyfriend was quite wonderful.

 

At a quarter to 6, Erik was sitting in his car, finally driving to Charles' house. Only now did he remember the surprise Charles had mentioned. A surprise to do with Raven? What could that be? Raven hadn't even known about them seeing each other, so how could Charles have prepared a surprise for Erik with her? Erik cast around for any ideas as to what it might be, but he was completely clueless. Well, he would probably find out in a moment and it would actually be a real surprise by the looks of it.

Erik turned into the street where Charles lived, and parked his car. He was getting excited now. He was going to see Charles again in a minute.

 

Charles opened the door almost instantly after Erik had rung the doorbell.

"Hey." He blushed, but looked excited. Erik had never seen a blush look so beautiful on someone's cheeks.

"Hey," Erik replied, entering and closing the door behind himself. "I haven't brought dinner today. What do you—"

"Dinner can wait," Charles interrupted Erik, pushing him against the wall and starting to kiss him as soon as the door had clicked shut.

Dinner could indeed wait. They stumbled through the hallway and up the stairs, almost falling over a few times because they couldn't stop kissing and undressing each other. When they arrived in the bedroom, Erik was already naked and rock hard and Charles was only wearing his jeans which Erik removed as quickly as he could, before they both scrambled hastily onto the bed, Erik falling on top of Charles.

They kissed and touched each other hungrily, while their cocks rubbed against their stomachs, drawing loud gasps and moans from their mouths. At some point, when Erik could hardly stand it anymore, Charles thankfully reached down and grabbed Erik's cock. Still kissing Charles hungrily, Erik began thrusting into his hand. He was overwhelmed by the sensation, but also by a rush of emotions. Charles was wonderful, he was perfect, and he was Erik's in this moment, which had to go on forever and could never end. He stopped kissing Charles and lifted his head so he could see Charles' face. Charles looked absolutely debauched. His lips were redder than ever before and his mouth and those blue eyes were wide open. Charles brought his free hand, which wasn't touching Erik's cock, up to Erik's face, stroking gently over his lower lip, with such a turned on, yet tender expression on his face, that Erik felt a thrill run down his spine and came with a loud moan, spurting semen all over Charles' hand and stomach.

For a moment Erik breathed heavily, his eyes closed, then he reached for Charles' cock. He listened and watched in amazement as Charles' gasping breaths became heavier and louder and his face finally contorted in an almost painfully ecstatic expression, before he, too, came with a half-choked gasp.

Erik slumped down next to Charles, watching him breathe heavily through his nose. Charles' eyes were closed and the blush on his cheeks very pronounced. He looked more beautiful than ever. Erik was overwhelmed by a strange and intense feeling of tenderness for the other man. It was a completely new and unknown sentiment for Erik.

He stretched out a hand to gently caress the red-tinged cheeks. Charles opened his eyes at the touch and turned his head towards Erik, his breathing becoming calmer now. Erik leant over him and pressed a gentle kiss to Charles' red lips. When he withdrew again, Charles was smiling.

"How about dinner now? I can make pasta without burning it," he said.

They both laughed

"Sounds very enticing," said Erik. "But I don't want to get dressed quite yet."

"Well, don't then," Charles replied, still smiling. "I don't quite want you to get dressed either."

He leant over the side of the bed and retrieved two tissues from the drawer of his bedside cabinet. He handed one over to Erik and started to clean his own stomach and hand with the other.

While Erik cleaned himself, too, he remembered something.

"Charles, you said on the phone that what you did at Raven's was a surprise. Can you tell me now?"

He glanced over at Charles who appeared slightly nervous. Charles turned over towards Erik and looked intently at him.

"You know how we talked about me coming out publicly, but I said I'm not ready yet?"

"Yes, of course."

"Well, I don't really think I'll ever be ready."

Erik's heart sank. What did this mean? He opened his mouth to speak, but Charles shook his head, indicating that he hadn't finished yet.

"So I figured I just had to force myself to do it. And to do it in a way which doesn't allow me to chicken out at the last moment. So...." He took a deep breath." So I went to see Raven today and we worked on the interview I gave last week. And now it's not only an interview about my study but also....well, it's my coming-out. In print. Crazy, isn't it?"

He looked at Erik with a nervous smile. Erik didn't know what to say. He felt a big lump in his throat. He had never expected this.

"Erik?"

Charles looked slightly concerned.

A rush of emotions threatened to overwhelm Erik. It was a mixture of joy and pride, but also guilt. He swallowed.

"Charles," he said quietly. "I'm so sorry."

Charles gave him a surprised look.

"What about?"

"I'm the biggest arsehole in the universe, and I was so wrong."

"What are you talking about?"

Charles sat up and looked at Erik with a very concerned expression.

Erik took a deep breath.

"I should never have called you a coward. Or a hypocrite. You're neither of these things. In fact, I think you might be the bravest person I know. And you were right back then. I didn't even know you. I shouldn't have judged you. I'm so sorry."

Charles swallowed, too, but then he smiled.

"I take it you approve of my decision then? Because I was worried it might be too much."

Erik sat up, too, took Charles' face in his hands and kissed him. He tried to put a lot of unsaid things and feelings into the kiss and perhaps Charles understood because, when they broke apart, his eyes were shining with tears.

"It's not too much," said Erik, his voice a little hoarse. "It's perfect. I can't even tell you how happy this makes me."

Erik looked at Charles intently.

"Let me take you out tomorrow night. I know this place where they've got the most amazing food. You'll love it."

For a moment Erik was worried that he was going too fast, that Charles may not be ready to be seen with him in public, but then Charles smiled timidly.

"You mean, like a real date?"

Erik laughed, relieved.

"Yeah, as real as it gets."

Charles nodded, smiling happily now.

"I'd love that."

 

A while later they both got up and went into the kitchen. As Charles had suggested earlier, they didn't bother to get dressed, but stood, naked, side by side, cutting up tomatoes and basil, while they talked and laughed.

Every time Charles turned around to get something from the kitchen cabinet, Erik had a wonderful view of Charles' glorious backside. Erik's cock gave a little twitch whenever he imagined what he wanted to do with it. He had great plans for this masterpiece of an arse. Hopefully Charles would be up for them as well. Not every gay man enjoyed anal sex.

When it came to cooking, Charles had clearly not lied when he'd said that he wasn't master chef material. He seemed completely clueless and Erik very quickly took the reins in order to make sure their dinner was actually edible. He had no idea how Charles had survived until now. Funnily enough, Raven was the same, maybe even a little worse. Erik supposed it must have something to do with growing up with a cook at home. It was more endearing than annoying, however, and Erik was quite a decent cook himself and enjoyed cooking, so he wouldn't mind being responsible for that part in their relationship.

Erik paused stirring the sauce for a moment. He was amazed by himself. Was he actually planning a life with Charles already? He definitely needed to gear down a little. He couldn't be sure yet where this whole thing was actually going.

 

They ate, still naked, at the dinner table, Charles making the most indecent sounds.

"This is heavenly, Erik! I don't think I've ever tasted pasta this good."

Erik laughed.

"It's the simplest recipe there is, Charles. You know, there are all sorts of other pasta sauces."

"I want you to cook all of them then," said Charles, before he quickly busied himself with his food again, blushing a little.

Erik's heart lept. Surely this meant that Charles, too, wanted to spend many more evenings like this. Erik could have swept Charles off his chair and kissed him.

 

They spend the evening cuddled up in bed, talking, laughing and kissing, and after another glorious round of handjobs, Charles fell asleep in Erik's arms. Erik buried his face in Charles' soft hair and smiled. He could hardly believe that only a week ago, they hadn't even known each other and now he couldn't imagine being without Charles. Erik huddled closer against the smaller man before he drifted off as well.

 

The next day didn't go much differently. Neither of them felt like going out or getting dressed, so they spent half the day in bed, kissing and talking, and simply enjoying each other's company, only getting out occasionally to have some food or go to the bathroom.

It felt like heaven. Not once did Erik think about anything else but Charles and just how right it felt. It was as though he'd found something he hadn't even realised he'd been looking for all his life. Charles was what it was all about.

 

Around midday, when they were both laying in bed, Charles received a call from Raven. He'd just picked up and brought the phone to his ear, when he jerked violently and dropped it again. Erik knew exactly why. Raven had squealed so loudly, even he had been able to hear every word.

"Is Erik there? I know Erik's there!"

Charles exhaled forcefully, giving Erik an exasperated look. Then he picked up his phone from the floor and laid it on the bed before he put the call on loudspeaker.

"Hello, Raven," he said.

"Is Erik there?" she repeated.

"Hey, Raven," said Erik, chuckling.

"Yes!" she exclaimed triumphantly.

"What are you two doing? Did I interrupt anything?" she added innocently.

Charles threw Erik an apologetic glance, but Erik started to laugh.

"Well, you know, we're both naked, and I was just about to pull your brother onto my lap and grab his—"

"OK, sorry! I changed my mind. I don't want to know," Raven replied, laughing. "Not that kind of detail, please. Don't ever tell me anything like that about my brother again."

Charles and Erik joined in her laughter.

"It sounds as if everything's great though, right? I'm so happy! And, hell, our place is turning into a public restaurant, but I want the two of you to come here for dinner. No excuses!"

"Well, I'm sorry, Raven," said Erik, "but we're going out on a date tonight, so—"

He was interrupted by the loudest squeal yet.

"A date? A real date? Ok, that's the only excuse I accept. Tell me more!"

In the end they agreed to have dinner together the night after, on Monday. Erik was surprised to find that he was actually looking forward to it. Raven could be extremely annoying about things, but she was obviously more than happy about the fact that he and Charles were seeing each other and that felt absolutely great. He had to admit that he couldn't wait to share his happiness with other people, which was completely out of character for him. It was amazing how much of an impact Charles had already had on him.

 

At a quarter past 6 they remembered they had to get ready to go out for dinner. As they had reserved a table for 7pm, Charles decided that both of them would have to shower on their own, so they wouldn't get distracted. It was a shame, but Erik had to admit that he had a point.

Charles showered first and when Erik got out, he found Charles in the living room, topless and wearing only the jeans he'd worn when Erik had met him in the gay bar the previous week, and which made his arse look so marvellous that Erik could hardly look anywhere else. When Erik got closer, he saw that Charles was ironing the blue shirt he'd also worn at the bar.

Charles looked up when he heard Erik approaching and smiled.

"I'm so glad I remembered to wash this. I want to look my best tonight."

Erik chuckled.

"Is this the only outfit you own for going out?"

Charles blushed. He suddenly looked very embarrassed. Erik could have kicked himself.

"I love it though. It looks great on you," he added quickly, placing a kiss on Charles' temple. "And I honestly would also take you out if you wore a potato sack. You look amazing in anything."

Charles laughed a little embarrassedly.

 

They were running quite late by the time Charles had finished ironing his shirt and putting it on, and had to hurry to get to the restaurant in time.

They arrived only 10 minutes late and sat down at Erik's favourite table. Charles looked around interestedly.

"It's lovely," he said. "Very modern but still cosy. How did you find this place?"

"Oh, I came here once with someone I used to know. That was many years ago though, but it's still as good," replied Erik, nodding his thanks at the waiter who had just brought the menus.

Erik already knew what he wanted to eat, so he watched Charles with a smile, as he flicked through the menu, soundlessly mouthing the French names of the different dishes. He looked absolutely adorable.

They ordered and while they waited for their food, Charles talked about the Mexican cook who had worked for them while he and Raven had still lived in their father's mansion in Westchester, New York. Apparently they had both spent a large amount of time in the kitchen where she told them the wildest stories about her family and entertained them with traditional songs and tales from her home country.

"But she didn't teach either of you how to cook," said Erik, smirking.

Charles laughed.

"No, she didn't. But I doubt that either Raven or I would have been very interested anyway. I wonder what happened to her," he added thoughtfully. "She must have lost her job when we left."

Their food arrived and Charles started to eat, making the most indecent noises again. Every now and again he closed his eyes, clearly savouring every bite. Erik watched him, feeling both incredibly fond and sad. He knew from Raven that she and Charles had never been very close with their parents, but deducing from what Charles had just said, they had been much closer to their cook than they had ever been to their mother. And then they'd had to leave her behind, the closest to a substitute parent they'd probably ever had. Well, Erik knew what that must have been like. His parents had both died unexpectedly when he was 17 years old, and then.... No, it was better not to think about it.

From the looks of it, both Charles and he had experienced pain and suffering. Erik couldn't imagine what it had to be like if your parents showed no interest in you. He had lost his own parents far too early but until then he had known nothing but love from them. Those 17 years were what had kept him going after his parents were gone. The love that he'd known had kept him from going insane in those terrible years that had followed his parents' deaths.

"Erik?"

Erik looked up to Charles eyeing him with concern. Erik's plate was still untouched. He caught himself.

"Sorry, got lost in thought." He smiled. There was no use thinking about it now. Not when he was here with Charles. Beautiful, perfect Charles, who made Erik happier than he'd been in many years.

Erik was about to reach for Charles' hand, when he remembered that Charles was probably not comfortable with showing affection in public yet. Erik was surprised to find that this didn't make him angry anymore. Charles would learn to be more confident about openly showing that he was gay, Erik was sure of it, and he would be there to support Charles all the way.

Erik was able to relax and enjoy his dinner while he listened to Charles ramble on about anything and everything. It was amazing how Charles could feel passionate about so many different things and how well he could get his passion across. Erik suddenly found himself interested in such things as Archaeology and Genetics – subjects he'd so far never even thought about. Charles truly was astounding.

After dessert they both felt incredibly full, but content. The restaurant hadn't disappointed. The food had been as incredible as ever.

Erik paid and they walked towards his car, breathing in the mild summer air, when suddenly Erik felt a hand slide into his own. He quickly looked down and then up again into Charles' face, which wore a nervous, but determined smile. Erik felt a wave of fondness for the smaller man and he squeezed Charles' hand tightly.

 

Back at home, Charles immediately kicked off his shoes, smiled at Erik for a moment, then hurried away up the stairs.

"Charles?"

There was no answer. Erik stood in the hallway, a little perplexed by Charles' sudden disappearance.

"Charles!"

Still no answer. Frowning, Erik removed his own shoes and slowly followed Charles upstairs.

When he entered the bedroom, he saw Charles sitting on the bed, cross-legged and completely naked, a condom and a bottle of lube in front of him, looking up at Erik.

At the sight, Erik's cock gave a little twitch. He exhaled slowly.

"Charles, does this mean...." The words got stuck in his throat as Charles grinned up at him.

"Did you really think I wouldn't notice you staring at my arse all day?"

Erik laughed quietly. Charles really was full of surprises. Charles patted on the sheet next to him.

"Get naked and get on here now."

Erik didn't need telling twice. Within seconds he had removed all of his clothes and had joined Charles on the bed. Charles immediately seized Erik by his neck and sank back into the sheets, pulling him on top of him. Charles smiled.

"How long have you been wanting to do this?"

"Since I met you," said Erik, a little out of breath. They'd hardly touched each other, yet the mere prospect of what was going to happen had been enough to make his cock rock hard.

Charles reached for Erik's face and pulled him down to kiss him, slowly and intimately, his tongue licking into Erik's mouth. Erik kissed back eagerly, licking over Charles red lips and exploring his mouth with his tongue as well. Charles' hands were in Erik's hair, ruffling it, while their kiss became more and more intense until they had to stop, both gasping for air. Erik took advantage of Charles' momentary breathlessness and turned them both around, pulling Charles' thighs towards him, so Charles was sitting astride Erik's stomach. They looked at each other for a moment, both smiling and still short of breath. Then Charles leant down and claimed Erik's mouth again, continuing their kiss with even more intensity.

Erik let his hands wander down Charles' back until they finally found Charles' arse. He stroked over Charles' buttocks, enjoying the little moan this drew from Charles' mouth, while his own erection started to throb almost painfully in anticipation. When Erik let his fingers circle Charles' hole, Charles squirmed and disrupted their kiss, inhaling sharply.

"Fuck, Erik! Get on with it!"

Although Erik was already dazed by arousal, he nevertheless noticed how Charles was on the way to losing control. This notion turned Erik on even more. If he hadn't been so desperate to get going himself, he would probably have enjoyed teasing Charles a little longer. As it was, however, he could hardly contain himself, so this wasn't an option.

Erik felt the little bottle of lube being shoved into his hand. Charles clearly meant business and Erik wasn't going to argue. He coated index and middle finger of his right hand in lube and brought them back to Charles' arse, carefully pushing against Charles' sphincter muscle with his index finger until it gave way and Erik's finger slid inside. Charles moaned deeply and started to rock slowly back and forth on Erik's finger.

Very quickly, Erik was able to add his middle finger. It was obvious that Charles wasn't doing this for the first time. He had no trouble relaxing his muscles and Erik very soon wasn't worried about hurting him anymore. Nevertheless, he added more lube a few times to make absolutely sure. After a few minutes of moaning, panting and finger fucking, Charles grabbed Erik's arm.

"Erik. I'm ready. Cock. Now!" he gasped.

Erik moaned loudly in response. He let go of Charles' arse and felt blindly around for the condom, before Charles shoved it forcefully into his hand. With trembling hands Erik tore open the wrapper and pulled the condom over his cock, then added another coat of lube just to be safe. As soon as Erik reached for Charles' waist, Charles grabbed the base of Erik's cock and slowly lowered himself onto it, breathing heavily through his teeth as he did so.

Once he had taken Erik all the way in, he held still for a moment, looking at Erik through half lidded eyes, open-mouthed and breathing more heavily than ever. The sight made Erik go half crazy with desire. And then Charles started to move and Erik's world once more seemed to focus in on nothing but Charles. He held on to Charles' hips, while Charles moved up and down, slowly first and then more and more quickly. Charles had grabbed his own cock now and was jerking himself off in time with the movement of his hips.

Erik didn't know where to look. The sight of Charles' hand moving back and forth on his own cock was mezmerizing, but so was the view of Charles' hips moving up and down and Erik's cock coming in and out of sight, not to forget the debauched look on Charles' face.

The sensation intensified and Erik got more and more turned on. At some point, however, laying there passively suddenly wasn't enough anymore, so he quickly turned Charles on his back and hovered over him, casting a glance at Charles who was looking at him with wide blown pupils.

"Do it," he breathed out and Erik starting pounding into him hard and fast, while Charles jerked himself off just as fiercely. It didn't take long until Erik came with a groan and Charles followed soon after.

They lay in each other's arms for a long time afterwards, exchanging tender kisses and caressing each other's faces, before they both fell asleep, spent but happy.

 

The next day, Charles had to go to work. It was the end of term, which meant that exams were coming up or were already written and needed correcting. This was an extremely busy time for all the university staff and Charles couldn't take the liberty of taking a day off. It was obvious that he'd much rather stay at home and spend the day with Erik, however, which at least was some compensation.

They said their goodbyes in the morning, sharing a few more kisses, and Erik left, wondering how on earth he should pass the time until the evening when he would pick up Charles and they'd both go to Raven and Hank's place for dinner.

Somehow the time went by, however, and at a quarter to 6, Erik rang Charles' doorbell, his heart beating faster at the prospect of seeing Charles again, even though it had only been a few hours since they'd last seen each other.

Charles opened the door, beaming at Erik. He once more wore the same tight-fitting jeans and blue shirt and Erik couldn't help but smile at the sight.

They arrived at Raven and Hank's house almost on time, which, as Raven exclaimed when she opened the door, was a first for Charles and then they were treated to an amazing dinner prepared by Hank, while Raven tried to get them drunk by refilling their wine glasses again and again. As Erik was driving and needed to be up early to get to London for his job, he refused after the first glass, but Charles and Raven were soon beyond tipsy and kept giggling and teasing each other, while Erik and Hank exchanged amused glances every now and again.

Erik could hardly take his eyes off of Charles. He seemed more at ease and happier than Erik had ever seen him. Raven kept trying to get him to talk about what exactly had happened between him and Erik and Charles didn't seem at all embarrassed or nervous about it. In fact, he let slip more juicy details than Erik himself would have told anyone and which made Hank's ears go red.

When it was time for them to leave, a very drunk Raven aided by a sober Hank convinced them to stay the night. It made a lot of sense, since the university was within walking distance of their home, which meant that Charles wouldn't have to drive in the morning. So Hank and Erik each carried their corresponding Xavier sibling first to the bathroom, and then to their beds.

Charles snuggled up to Erik as soon as he'd laid down beside him, burying his face in Erik's hair, before he fell asleep. Erik lay awake for a little while longer, gently caressing Charles' hair and arm, and reflecting how happy this drunk little professor was making him.

 

Far too early, at 5am, Erik's alarm went off. He quickly switched it off and glanced over at Charles, who'd moved at the sound and was looking around in confusion, still half asleep.

"Just my alarm," Erik whispered, placing a kiss on Charles' forehead. "Go back to sleep. I'll see you this evening."

"I'll be waiting for you," Charles murmured, his eyelids drooping again. "I love you."

Erik paused pulling on his trousers and stared at Charles in surprise, but Charles was already breathing deeply again, clearly asleep.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twelve – Logan

 

Logan was frustrated. He basically spent day after day sitting in his office without getting anywhere in the Worthington case.

He'd explored every possible lead but none had led him to the murderous bastard. They'd found the kid's car near the Glory as Charles had assumed, but there had been nothing interesting in it. Not that Logan had really expected anything. Logan's only hope lay with the forensic lab. If they had the killer's DNA in their criminal database, they should be able to find out who he was. Yet it didn't seem like they'd made this case their top priority, as Logan still hadn't heard back from them. It was already Tuesday, ten days since the murder. How could this take them so long?

Logan sighed. He sat slumped down in his office chair, turning around in circles, staring at the ceiling.

He wasn't exactly the most patient person and the fact that it took so fucking long for the results of the DNA comparison to come in, drove him almost insane. Since the end of the previous week he'd called those incompetent assholes down in the lab several times and every time they told him that they were working on it and that he should please stop disrupting their work with his calls.

This Tuesday wasn't going any better than the last days so far. Logan had rechecked and reread every single note and file that existed on the case for the hundredth time already, had called the lab another three times, always getting the same reply, and had had seven cups of coffee, even though it was only noon.

Logan got up. He had to get out of this office for some time. He would get some lunch at Tesco and then eat it out in the sun somewhere. There was nothing to do right now anyway.

 

Inside Tesco, Logan grabbed a sandwich and a drink, and walked towards checkout. When he passed the aisle which held the magazines and newspapers, he paused and turned around. He thought he'd spotted a pair of very familiar blue eyes. But how could that be?

It didn't take long for him to find the magazine in question and he was astounded that it was indeed Charles who was gazing intently at him from the cover. He picked it up to look at it more closely. It was a gorgeous picture. Charles' eyes shone brightly and his lips looked redder than ever. No wonder it had caught his eye.

Logan read the headline.

Homophobic Hate Crimes in Britain: Professor Charles Xavier explains why the rates are rising and what this means for our society’

Intrigued, Logan tucked the magazine under his arm and proceeded towards checkout, where he paid for all three items.

Out in the sun, Logan found an empty bench, sat down and unwrapped his sandwich. While he ate, he flicked through the magazine, looking for the page with the article about Charles. He soon found it and examined the photos illustrating it. It looked as though Charles was wearing the only decent outfit he owned. Those jeans that clung to his thighs and made his arse look amazing (although his masterpiece of a backside was unfortunately not visible in the photos) and the tight fitting blue shirt that so brought out his eyes.

This was exactly what Charles had looked like when Logan had first met him. Logan had entered the Glory – it had actually been the first time he’d been there – and had spotted the short man with the amazing arse and thighs immediately. Charles had been talking to another guy, but Logan had somehow succeeded in attracting his attention. It hadn’t taken long until they’d left together and headed to Logan’s flat. What had followed was still probably the best sex Logan had ever had. Even thinking about it now made his pants feel considerably tighter. Charles had left immediately afterwards, yet Logan hadn’t been able to get him out of his head. And then they’d met again, a few weeks later, and although Charles had told him that he never went with the same guy twice, Logan had somehow been able to persuade him. After that they’d fallen into some kind of a routine, meeting up at each other’s homes to have sex regularly, and pretty soon Logan had realised that he wanted more, that he wanted a real relationship. Charles, however, hadn’t been ready for something serious. He’d wanted to keep his homosexuality secret, so any display of affection outside of either of their homes had been impossible. They’d still tried to make it work, but not for long, since the whole arrangement had started to wear on them. Very soon they’d admitted defeat, but agreed to remain friends. However, Logan had never quite been able to forget about the time they’d had together. There had always been the tiniest spark of hope that Charles would overcome his fears and come out, and they would be together again.

Logan realised that he’d been staring at the pictures for quite a while now, and that he hadn’t read a single word of the interview. He shook his head slightly and started to read.

While his eyes travelled further down the page, Logan began to smile. Charles had always had a talent of getting a point across and this interview was a perfect example of that. It was an extremely interesting read and gave new insights in the subject. Even Logan, who encountered homophobic violence and intolerance fairly often, both due to his job and his life as a gay man, hadn’t thought about the subject like this before.

When Logan reached the very last paragraph, his eyes widened in surprise. Charles was using an interview in a magazine for his coming out? What the hell had brought this about? But then Logan recalled what Charles had been like the previous week when they’d met up after the Worthington kid’s death. He’d seemed unhinged and if Logan remembered correctly had called himself a ‘hypocrite.’ So maybe the whole affair had made him realise that he didn’t want to live in the closet anymore?

Anyway, it was fantastic. Charles coming out – Logan wouldn’t have thought it possible only a minute ago. He’d have to call Charles later today and ask him if they could meet somewhere for a drink to celebrate this important step in his life. Maybe it could even lead to something new between them. Anything seemed possible right now.

Logan got up from the bench. He suddenly felt like walking around town, letting the sun shine on his face and reminiscing about old memories of his time with Charles. He couldn’t imagine going back to his tiny and cramped office just yet, where there was nothing to do but wait for the forensic lab to send their results. He tucked the magazine away in the inside pocket of his leather jacket and realised that his phone wasn’t there. He must have left it lying on his desk in the office. For a moment he considered going back inside to get it, but then he decided against it. Work would have to wait. It wasn’t as though anything interesting had happened in the last few days, so why should it now?

 

Although Logan hadn’t planned it, his short walk turned into a rather long one and when he got back to his office, it was already almost 4pm. He took off his sunglasses and was just walking down the hallway, when he saw Azazel coming out of his office.

Logan!” Azazel said exasperatedly. “I’ve been looking for you for hours, man! Where have you been?” Without waiting for an answer, he went on. “The results are in. Looks like they found a match. Might well be that we’ve found your attacker.”

What?” Logan could hardly believe it. After all those fruitless searches and dead ends everywhere, was it possible that it should be that easy?

Yeah, just check the database. It’s in there and—”

Logan didn’t wait for him to finish. He stormed into his office and turned on his computer, almost throwing a fit when it took far too long to start up.

As soon as the symbols appeared on his desktop, he loaded the file and scrolled through it to find the results. When he finally found it and clicked on it, the photograph of a bulky man in his late twenties or early thirties with very short hair appeared on his monitor. Logan exhaled slowly. So far he fit the witness’ description perfectly. Logan read the additional information. Apparently the man’s name was Cain Marko, he would now be 30 years old, and he was registered as a resident of Oxford. He’d been convicted of criminal assault three years previously and had been fined.

This was all too good to be true. Everything fit. Now it was down to Logan to somehow prove that Marko had been in the street in question at the time of the attack or at least make sure that he didn’t have an alibi and that there was no other explanation for why his DNA had been found on the victim’s naked back.

However, even though everything seemed to fit perfectly, something felt strange. Logan was quite sure that he’d never seen the man before, yet the name ‘Marko’ sounded vaguely familiar. Logan wracked his brain, trying to remember where he might have heard it before, but to no avail. In the end he typed ‘Marko Oxford’ into Google. He was surprised to see that the very first result was the homepage of ‘Xavier corp.’ which was the business owned by Charles’ family. Did Marko have something to do with Charles?

With mounting trepidation, Logan clicked on the link, looking for any sign of the name ‘Marko’ on the website. Under the caption ‘management,’ he found it again. Apparently, a guy called Kurt Marko was the owner of the firm, but then….

Logan froze. Suddenly he remembered. Charles had told him once that his stepfather had taken over the business after he’d gotten married to Charles’ mother and moved them all to England. And Charles had also mentioned a stepbrother who was unstable and sometimes violent. This had to be him. Cain Marko.

The brutality of the attack had suggested that there had been a personal connection between victim and attacker but what if the connection had actually been between Charles and the attacker? Had the Worthington kid been killed because he’d been seen going into or coming out of Charles’ house in particular? Did this mean that Charles was in danger, too?

Nervously, Logan picked up his phone and selected Charles’ number. It rang and rang, but nobody picked up.

Come on, Charles,” Logan growled.

After a while, Charles’ voice mail answered and Logan left him a message.

Charles? It’s Logan. If you hear this, please call me back at once. There’s something important I need to tell you.”

After he’d hung up, Logan sat at his desk for a moment, heart hammering fast, before he picked up his phone again. It was only a little after 4pm. Maybe Charles was still at work.

It rang for ages again, and Logan was about to hang up, when his call was finally answered. However, it was a woman speaking.

Hello? This is Moira MacTaggert. Were you trying to reach Professor Xavier?”

Yes!” Logan blurted out. “Is he there?”

Moira MacTaggert made an apologetic sound.

I’m sorry. Unfortunately not. He left early today, about two hours ago. Would you like me to leave a note for him, so he’ll call you back?”

Logan groaned.

Excuse me?”

He caught himself.

No, thank you. I’ll try and reach him on his mobile. Goodbye.”

 

Logan spent the next fifteen minutes pacing up and down his office, waiting desperately for Charles to call him back. At some point he couldn’t stand it anymore and called Charles’ number again.

No answer.

Fuck!”

Logan slumped down in his office chair, taking a few deep breaths, trying to calm himself. This didn’t necessarily have to mean anything. Maybe Charles was taking a shower, or he’d gone shopping and left his phone at home. There were a million explanations for why Charles wasn’t answering. It didn’t have to mean that he wasn’t perfectly alright.

Logan’s eyes fell on Charles’ portrait on the cover of the magazine. If Logan’s assumption that Cain Marko was the killer was correct, the Worthington kid had probably been attacked because he’d had sex with Charles. It had been a homophobic hate crime, that much was certain. Had it been a warning meant for Charles himself? And now Charles had publicly come out in a magazine, for everyone to read.

A rush of panic threatened to overwhelm Logan and he took a very deep breath. He’d have to remain calm. Everything was probably OK, but he’d have to make sure.

He got up, grabbed his car keys and left, trying very hard not to think about what might or might not have happened.

 

He reached the neighbourhood where Charles lived about 25 minutes later. On his way there, he’d called Charles another three times without success.

If only Charles’ car wasn’t there, there might be a possibility that he was out and had simply forgotten his phone or was somewhere without signal. But that spark of hope was disappointed. Charles’ car was parked in the driveway as usual.

Logan almost ran to the front door and rang the doorbell several times, but nobody answered. Losing control and panicking again, he started hammering against the door with his fists and calling out Charles’ name, but again there was no response.

Wondering what on earth he could do now, Logan started to walk around the house, trying to get a look inside, but as it was still very sunny and bright outside, it was hard to see anything at all.

Trying not to scream out in frustration and panic, he fumbled for his phone and called Charles again. This time he heard something. Charles’ phone was definitely ringing inside the house. He moved closer towards the nearest window, placing his hands left and right to his face, so he could see inside a little better. He could make out the dining area of Charles’ living-room. The little light glowing on the dining table was probably Charles’ phone. But where was Charles?

Craning his neck, Logan tried to get a look at the rest of the room. To his right, there was the area with the two sofas and the bookshelves and—

Logan froze. It was hard to make out from where he stood, but it looked as though books were scattered all over the floor and there was something sticking out from behind the sofa. Something that looked awfully like—

With a new jolt of panic, Logan stumbled away from the window, looking wildly around for something heavy and solid. He spotted a rather large stone lying next to one of the neighbours’ flower beds, hurried to get it and, without hesitating another moment, flung it right at Charles’ living room window which shattered with a loud crash, scattering tiny fragments of broken glass everywhere.

Paying no attention to the glass cutting into his palms, Logan pulled himself inside, calling out Charles’ name.

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirteen – Charles

 

A knock on the door woke Charles. He looked around, disoriented for a moment, before he remembered that he was in Raven and Hank’s guest room.

Yeah?” he mumbled.

The door opened and Hank peered inside.

Sorry, I just thought maybe you wanted to be woken up. It’s 7:30 and Raven and I are having breakfast. Want to join us?”

Charles glanced to his side, expecting to see Erik, but he wasn’t there.

Where’s Erik?”

Didn’t he say last night that he’d have to leave early?” replied Hank.

Oh yeah, right.”

Charles rubbed his eyes. Now he remembered as well. He even had a vague memory of Erik’s alarm going off this morning.

Charles forced himself to sit up. He definitely did have to get up and go to work today. He had to supervise an exam at 10 o’clock, and there were also a lot of papers lying on his desk, waiting to be marked. He moaned quietly. He was tired and dehydrated, and his head felt as though it was going to split open. This wasn’t going to be a fun day.

Do you have any ibuprofen?” he asked.

Erm…. Yeah, I think so,” replied Hank. “Do you want me to go and get them for you?”

Charles shook his head, but regretted it at once. It had made his headache much worse. He screwed up his eyes in pain.

No, thanks, Hank. I’ll be in the living room in a minute.”

Hank nodded and left.

 

Charles somehow managed to get out of bed and get dressed and then dragged himself to the dining table, where Raven already sat, her head down on the table, while Hank buttered her some toast.

Morning,” said Charles.

Raven held up a hand without moving her head or saying anything. Hank pointed at a foil pack of tablets on the table.

There’s your ibuprofen. And some water. I made coffee, too, if you’d like some.”

Charles nodded gratefully, extracted a pill from the package and washed it down with a glass of water. Then he poured himself a cup of coffee.

Anything to eat? Toast? Cereal?” asked Hank.

Charles rubbed his eyes. He was slightly nauseous and didn’t feel like eating anything at all, but experience told him that he should try and get something into his stomach.

Yeah…. Toast, I guess.”

They ate in silence, or rather Charles and Hank did, until Raven finally lifted her head and groaned.

I’m never drinking again.”

Hank smiled and Charles raised his eyebrows.

Yeah, I think I’ve heard that before.”

Shut up and hand me one of those pills.”

A few minutes later, the pills finally kicked in and Charles started to feel like a real human again. He went to the bathroom to brush his teeth and then helped Hank get Raven in a state in which she could actually go to work. This took a while, but after about half an hour Raven was fit to drive and so she left for work. Hank had a job as a research assistant in the physics department, so shortly afterwards, he and Charles walked towards the university together.

They’d only been walking for a few minutes, when Hank grabbed Charles’ sleeve and held him back.

Look at that!”

Charles paused and turned around. Hank was pointing at a shop window behind which was an aisle displaying the current newspapers and magazines. For a moment, Charles didn’t know what Hank meant, but then, with a start, he spotted his own face looking back at him. It was extremely odd to see himself on the cover of a real and purchasable magazine.

Want to buy it?” asked Hank, grinning.

No, I don’t,” said Charles pointedly. “Honestly, this is the weirdest thing I’ve ever experienced.”

A woman came out of the shop carrying the magazine in her hand. When she spotted Charles, she looked perplexedly down at the cover and back up at him again, then she smiled widely, and walked away.

 

This encounter wasn’t the last one of this kind. It was surprising how many people seemed to already have read the interview and, which was even more surprising, liked it. A young man actually shook Charles’ hand in the middle of the street with a big smile on his face, an older woman stopped to tell him, she was glad that somebody finally spoke out about these horrific crimes, and a lot of other people simply smiled or nodded at him on his way to the university. What amazed Charles most, however, was that all the reactions he got were positive. Not a single person he met seemed angry or grossed out by the article.

Furthermore, when he reached his office, every single colleague of his had apparently read the interview and had something to say about it.

Wow, Charles, I’m really impressed.”

That was brilliant!”

What an important article. Thank you, Charles.”

I’m so happy for you!”

Charles, that was incredibly brave. I’m so proud of you!”

He was extremely embarrassed by all their praise and compliments, but was saved from the necessity to talk about the article in detail, when he remembered that he had to hurry and get the papers for the exam he was supposed to supervise.

 

When Charles entered the lecture theatre in which the exam would take place, he gave a start and almost dropped the exam papers. After a moment he realised that the sudden noise which had startled him was actually caused by about fifty students clapping and cheering at the sight of him. He exhaled slowly and looked around. All of his students were smiling or grinning at him, some whistling, others standing on the benches or desks. He was stunned. Whatever reactions he had expected, this was definitely not one of them. He didn’t know what to say or do. He was their professor and they were about to write an exam, so he should probably try and calm them down a little. But at the same time he was incredibly grateful and touched, and felt the need to express those feelings somehow.

He put down the papers on the desk in front and then turned around to the students again, holding up his hands. Silence fell immediately and the students who’d stood on top of their desks or benches clambered down.

I, erm….” He cleared his throat. “This is amazing. Thank you. I honestly don’t know what to say…. Wow. This support is…. Thank you.”

He took a deep breath, trying to gather himself. It wouldn’t be appropriate to lose his poise and cry in front of his students.

I’m afraid this doesn’t mean that I can relieve you of the burden of writing this exam.”

A few students laughed.

So, if you could all please take your seats. Phones off and away and no more talk now, please. Then I can hand out the papers.”

 

Although the day had started with a terrible hangover, it got better and better. When Charles got back to his office and switched his phone back on, he discovered he had a message from Erik. Heart beating faster, he clicked on it.

Miss you. Can’t wait to see you again this evening. Erik x”

Charles smiled happily. Erik missed him! Charles could hardly believe that this was actually happening to him. He closed his eyes for a moment, sighing deeply, then he wrote an answer.

I can’t wait either. Don’t keep me waiting for too long! Charles X”

Before he could worry too much about whether his reply was either too soppy or too neutral or weird in some other way, he pressed ‘send’ and put his phone down on his desk, smiling softly. He was going to see Erik again this evening. They would spend the whole evening and night together, and from now it could be like this every single day. Charles’ heart felt as though it was going to burst with happiness at the thought.

Following a sudden inspiration (or it might be madness), he opened his browser and typed ‘special simple kosher recipes’ into Google. A lot of results appeared and he began clicking through them one by one.

“Jesus, I wrote ‘simple’,” he muttered.

He really wanted to surprise Erik in some way, and if he actually managed to cook for them, that would certainly do it. However, it could also end in a total disaster, and those recipes looked far from simple to him. Sighing deeply, he continued his search and after about ten minutes of reading descriptions and discarding recipes with frustrated groans he finally stumbled across something which sounded not only doable, but also delicious. It was a recipe for Kung Pao Chicken with the description ‘It’s easy to make, and you can be as sloppy with the measurements as you want’, which sounded as though it might suit his cooking style.

He printed out the list of ingredients and the instructions and put them away. Then he glanced at his watch. It was almost 1pm. He would definitely have to schedule quite a lot of time for cooking (including some extra time for the possibility that he’d have to order something in case he ruined dinner completely), so he decided to leave early at 2pm. He quickly shut down his browser and pulled the exam papers towards him. He had a ton of them to correct which he surely wouldn’t manage today, but work really wasn’t his top priority right now. Those papers would just have to wait a little longer.

At exactly 2pm he got up and went to his colleague Moira’s office to let her know that he was leaving early today. She was surprised but understanding.

“Yes, of course. This is a very special time for you. Enjoy the rest of your day!”

 

While he was walking through the aisles in Tesco, collecting everything he needed for dinner, he got more and more nervous about this evening. If he actually managed to cook something tasty, this would be the most perfect surprise. However, so far he’d only ever succeeded in preparing one dish. And judging by Erik’s reaction on Saturday, Charles had seemed hopeless even at that. Well, at least Erik already knew about Charles being all thumbs in the kitchen. Even if he messed it up completely, at least he’d have made an effort.

When he got out his wallet to pay, the check-out operative gave him a wide smile. It took him a moment to remember why she was probably smiling at him like that. All those people being so nice to him was starting to freak him out a little.

 

He arrived at home at about a quarter to 3pm. Since he’d walked to work from Raven and Hank’s place in the morning, he hadn’t had his car at the university and subsequently had to take the bus which always took a little longer.

He packed away the groceries and then shot Erik another message asking him whether he knew already when he was going to be back. Erik replied straight away.

I’m leaving right now. Will be at your place in about an hour and a half. Erik x”

Charles put his phone down on the dining table, exhaling slowly. An hour and a half. He was happy that he was going to see Erik again so soon, but nevertheless he panicked a little at the prospect of having to finish cooking within an hour and a half, not to mention that he wanted to take a shower.

Deciding that the more important aspect was that he didn’t smell bad, he quickly rushed upstairs into the bathroom to take the quickest shower he’d ever had. Then he went back into the kitchen, took out the cooking instructions and stared at them for a moment. He took a deep breath. He could do this. It was just a formula, a simple mathematic formula, and if he did exactly what it said in the instructions, he should be OK.

He took the chicken out of the fridge and cut it into little pieces. Then he mixed up the marinade, mixed them both together in a bowl and put it back in the fridge. He exhaled slowly. This wasn’t so difficult. He really could do this.

Preparing the sauce was also much easier than he’d suspected and when he tried it, he was surprised to find that it actually tasted quite good. He was astonished and a little amazed by himself. He could cook.

When he took a glance at the next part of the instructions, however, he frowned. What the bleeding hell did ‘sauté’ mean? He looked around for his phone to look up the term on the internet, but it didn’t seem to be anywhere in the kitchen. With a little jolt he remembered that he’d left it on the dining table before he went into the shower. How bloody stupid of him. What if Erik had tried to reach him?

He quickly went into the living room to retrieve his phone, but before he reached it, the doorbell rang. He shot a quick glance at the clock on the wall. It was half past 4pm. It looked like Erik was exactly on time. Charles felt a little pang of disappointment that he hadn’t been able to finish the surprise before Erik arrived, but nevertheless his excitement rose at the prospect of seeing him again. Just when Charles began to walk towards the front door, his phone rang. He paused for a moment, wondering who might be calling him, but then proceeded to walk towards the door. He didn’t want to keep Erik waiting. He’d just have to call back whoever was on the phone later.

Just before he opened the door, he took a deep breath. Hopefully Erik would be surprised and maybe even a little impressed with his work. Smiling, Charles opened the door. But it wasn’t Erik.

“Cain?” Charles asked, surprised. “What—”

Cain’s face contorted and he pushed Charles backwards against the wall, while he slammed the door behind him.

For a moment Cain just stood there, staring at Charles. He was breathing heavily, his jaw working and his fists clenched tightly. Charles knew that look. Cain was just inches away from losing it and slashing at him. Charles slowly moved backwards, his heart suddenly beating very fast. If Cain attacked him now there was nothing he could do. There never had been. Cain was about twice as wide and heavy as Charles was and he never held himself back. Charles swallowed.

Cain?” he said very slowly and carefully. “Are you OK?”

Suddenly, Cain lashed out at Charles, hitting him full in the face. Charles was thrown backwards and almost fell to the floor. Slightly dazed, his head throbbing painfully, Charles tried to get away from his stepbrother, and half ran, half stumbled into the living room. He wasn’t quick enough, however, and there was nowhere he could go anyway. Charles had barely made it five steps, before Cain got hold of his arm and pulled him forcefully back towards him. They stared into each other’s faces for a moment, and Charles was astonished to see tears glistening in Cain’s eyes, before he was pushed backwards again. Charles hit the bookshelf mounted behind him, which collapsed, and books were scattered all over the floor. He scrambled to his feet again, holding up a hand to try and keep his stepbrother away.

Cain—”

A fist hit Charles in the pit of his stomach and he hunched over, convulsed with pain. Cain gave him another strong shove and Charles, unable to keep his balance, toppled over onto the floor. Immediately, Cain was over him and striking him repeatedly in the face. Charles felt his nose break. His senses became blurred. He could hardly see anymore and a loud whistling sound filled his ears. Almost blind, he tried to push his stepbrother off of him, but to no avail. Through the whistling in his ears, he thought he heard Cain’s voice, shrill and furious.

Fucking pervert! How could you? You won’t— I won’t let you—”

More punches hit every inch of Charles’ face and chest and he became less and less focussed. He tried to shield his face with his arms, but Cain just grabbed hold of them, pulled Charles upright again and shook him forcefully, sobbing uncontrollably now.

Why can’t you just keep your fucking mouth shut?” he screamed into Charles’ face. “You fucking pervert! Why do you always have to ruin everything?”

Charles couldn’t think straight anymore, nor could he see or hear properly. Everything was one big buzzing sensation of pain, noise and light and he hardly knew where he was and what was happening.

With one loud and desperate scream Cain pushed him away again and Charles, who seemed to have lost any control over his body, fell backwards and hit the edge of his coffee table. A sharp pain in his lower back cut through the numbness in his senses, as he crumpled like a marionette whose strings had been cut.

Chapter Text

Chapter Fourteen – Erik

 

The sun had barely risen and the M40 was bathed in red light. Erik’s car was one of only a few on the motorway this early in the morning. This was lucky because Erik found it extremely hard to focus on his driving. He just couldn’t stop thinking about what Charles had said moments before Erik had left.

I love you.”

Charles had been half asleep when he’d said it, so maybe it didn’t mean anything, but weren’t people the most honest when they were in a state of half-consciousness? He suspected that Charles wouldn’t have said it, had he been fully awake, but did that mean that it wasn’t true? Erik himself had never told anyone that he loved them, apart from his parents, which was something completely different. This was not due to him being afraid of saying it. It had simply never been true. With Charles, however, everything felt much more real than it had in a long, long time. With Charles, every moment was intense and beautiful. With Charles, Erik felt more alive than ever before. Erik swallowed. Wasn’t it far too early to feel this way? They’d only known each other for a week and had only spent a few days properly together. Could he really be in love with Charles already? At the thought, a wave of happiness and fondness overcame him. What was holding him back? He should simply admit it. He loved Charles and, unbelievably, it looked as though Charles felt the same way.

Erik tried to pull himself together. The wonderful realisation that he and Charles actually loved each other had almost made him miss a turn, and then he’d have been truly lost in this part of London that he didn’t know well at all.

 

Erik reached his destination almost half an hour early. The door was still locked and nobody seemed to be there yet. Erik sat down on the steps in front of the door and let the morning sun shine on his face. It had been incredibly warm for far over a week now which rarely happened in England, but apparently today was going to be the last beautiful day for a long time. Thunderstorms were forecast for tonight which would cool down the air and ground, and from tomorrow on there was supposed to be nothing but rain, at least for a few days. Erik didn’t mind it much. He would be spending those days with Charles, and if they never left the bedroom for days at a time, that was more than alright with him.

Erik sighed deeply. He couldn’t remember ever feeling this much at peace with himself and with the world before. He’d tell Charles that he loved him tonight. He simply had to let Charles know what it all meant to him. For Charles, their meeting had meant that he had finally found the courage to liberate himself and come out, but Charles didn’t know, and Erik was only really realising himself right now, how much Charles had saved him, too. Erik had spent all those last years avoiding getting too close to anyone. Raven had been the only person who deserved to actually be called his friend, and all the lovers he’d had had never really gotten to know him. Erik realised only now how afraid he’d been to become dependent on somebody again. He hadn’t been able to admit just how much Sebastian had scarred him. But Charles was already helping Erik heal those wounds. Erik was ready to become Charles’, to commit to him fully, because Charles just made him feel secure and loved.

Erik’s thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of a few people, including the advertising manager and the two models he was going to work with today.

 

Although everyone was nice and the atmosphere was pleasant, Erik had been right to assume that this job wasn’t going to be much fun. The advertising manager wanted exactly the kind of photographs that Erik found incredibly boring.

After about two hours of photographing the models with their white-toothed smiles, standing in front of a white screen, pointing at a wifi router or holding up a smartphone, the manager announced that they would all now take a short break while a new background was mounted.

Erik got some breakfast and a cup of coffee from the small buffet in the corner and sat down on one of the chairs that had been lined up next to it, taking out his phone and sending a short text to Charles.

Miss you. Can’t wait to see you again this evening. Erik x”

The message wasn’t delivered at once, so Charles’ phone must be switched off. Well, he was at work and probably supervising an exam right now, so it wasn’t really that surprising.

Text to your girlfriend?”

Erik looked up. One of the models was standing in front of him, wearing her flawless smile.

Boyfriend,” he corrected her. It felt absolutely wonderful to say the word out loud.

She looked taken aback for a moment, but then caught herself and smiled again, as she sat down next to him.

Is he cute?” she asked. She seemed genuinely interested.

You have no idea,” he replied.

She laughed.

Now I’m intrigued,” she said. “Do you have a photo?”

Not here, no.” He shook his head. He was surprised by himself. He was a professional photographer and Charles was a true work of art, yet the only photos he’d ever taken of him had been those at the interview last week. He’d really need to change this. He wanted a million photos of what Charles looked like right after they’d had sex. Erik smiled at the thought.

Oh, a new romance then?” she asked, smiling brightly.

Pretty new, yeah,” he replied. He was surprised to find that he wasn’t annoyed by her asking him these questions. He usually hated it when strangers interrogated him about his life, but this was about Charles. Erik would never tire of talking about Charles. He smiled at her for the first time. “It’s only been going a few days.”

I bet you wish you weren’t here then.” She laughed again. “I hated leaving my boyfriend for longer than a few minutes at the beginning. Well, I promise I’ll do my best to help this go as smoothly and quickly as possible, so you can get back to your cute guy.”

Before Erik could reply, the manager called them all back and they continued the photoshoot.

A while into the shoot, he finally received an answer from Charles saying “I can’t wait either. Don’t keep me waiting for too long! Charles X”, and Erik’s heart once again beat faster and harder at the prospect of spending the evening with his boyfriend.

The shoot did indeed go very smoothly, and at a quarter to 3pm they were finished.

Both the manager and the model Erik had talked to came to have a look at the photos. Both seemed pleased with the results, and after Erik had arranged with the manager that he was going to send him a pre-selection of the photos the following day, he packed up his equipment and left the building.

The model was waiting outside the door. When she saw him, she smiled again.

Finally free?” she asked.

Erik nodded. She held out a hand.

Sorry, I haven’t even introduced myself. I’m Alison.”

Erik.”

They shook hands.

Listen, Erik,” she said. “Are you generally busy or are you currently looking for work?”

What kind of work?”

Well, I’m actually getting married in three months and I haven’t yet managed to find a photographer that I like. But today was great, and if you do that kind of stuff I would totally hire you.”

Erik hesitated for a moment. He’d always avoided accepting jobs as a wedding photographer. He’d never been able to stand the happy, straight couples and their traditional celebrations and old-fashioned relatives. Alison, however, seemed nice, and Erik found that he actually wouldn’t mind being confronted with happy couples anymore, now being part of one himself.

Alright,” he said. “But I haven’t got my calendar on me, so I’m not sure yet whether I’ll be available.”

Erik placed his equipment on the ground and took out his wallet.

Here’s my card. Why don’t you just send me an email with all the details and I’ll see what I can do.”

She took it and sighed, smiling.

That would be amazing! Thank you! You have no idea how hard it is to find a good photographer. Well, enjoy your evening,” she added. “My best wishes to your boyfriend.”

She waved and left.

Erik walked towards his car and got into the driver’s seat. He was just about to start the engine, when his phone vibrated. He took it out of his pocket and saw that he had another message from Charles.

Any idea when you’re going to be here? Miss you! X”

Erik quickly replied “I’m leaving right now. Will be at your place in about an hour and a half. Erik x,” then he turned the key in the ignition lock and drove off, eager to get to Charles as quickly as possible.

Erik had been driving for about 20 minutes, when he had a sudden mental image of his photography equipment being propped up against the wall of the building he’d just left. Swearing loudly, he parked his car in the next side street and strode to the boot to check whether it was there, but the boot was completely empty. He sighed deeply. He must have forgotten to pick it up again after he’d given Alison his card. He could only hope that it was still there and hadn’t been stolen. At least it was in a rather secluded area of London, so maybe not too many people had noticed.

Erik quickly took out his phone and composed another message to Charles.

Sorry, I forgot something. Going back now. Don’t expect me before 5:10. Erik x”

 

To Erik’s immense relief his equipment was still exactly where he’d left it. He packed it all into his boot, then checked his phone to see whether Charles had replied, but the message wasn’t even marked as ‘read.’ Erik could only hope that Charles would see it in time and not wait for him. For a moment he considered calling Charles, but then decided against it. He’d much rather get driving and be back as soon as possible. If Charles wondered where Erik was, he would probably check his phone anyway and then he’d see the message.

Although it was rush hour, there was surprisingly little traffic, and at 5pm, Erik reached the outer regions of Oxford. In the distance he could make out a mountain of very black clouds. Apparently the forecast thunderstorms weren’t far away, but by the looks of it he should be able to make it to Charles’ house before they reached the city.

The closer he got to Charles’ house, the faster his heart beat in his chest. He definitely wanted to tell Charles tonight that he loved him, but he was nervous about Charles’ reaction. Hopefully Charles really felt the same way and wouldn’t be freaked out by it.

His thoughts were interrupted by the wailing of sirens. He slowed down and drove to the side of the road to let the ambulance pass which was rushing in the opposite direction. He’d almost reached Charles’ house now, and he was getting excited about seeing his boyfriend again.

When Erik turned the corner, however, his breath caught. Two police cars and one emergency doctor’s car were parked in the street, and a lot of people seemed to be standing around in the driveway to Charles’ house.

No,” Erik whispered. “Please, no.”

This couldn’t have anything to do with Charles. It just couldn’t. Those people were probably just standing there because something had happened to one of Charles’ neighbours. Erik looked around for Charles’ short figure, desperately hoping to spot him, to confirm that he was alright. But he wasn’t there. Instead, Erik caught sight of a pair of very broad shoulders.

Logan.

He was Charles’ friend, so his being here didn’t necessarily have to mean anything bad had happened. However, he was also a police officer.

Erik took a deep breath.

No. Nothing could have happened to Charles. There had to be some other reason why all these people were here.

Erik’s hands were shaking now, his heart beating so fast that he felt a little dizzy. He was terrified of getting out of his car, terrified of finding out that something bad had indeed happened to Charles. Yet, he needed to know the truth. And Logan could probably tell him.

Erik struggled for a moment with the driver’s door because his hands were shaking so badly, but then he succeeded in opening them and got out. He clenched his fists, trying to get the shaking under control and started to walk towards Logan on trembling legs. He now noticed that Charles’ front door was open and two men in white overalls were standing in the hallway examining the front door. Erik’s heart skipped a beat. This couldn’t be true. This just couldn’t be happening. Not again.

Logan turned around at the sound of Erik approaching and frowned as though he was trying to figure out what Erik was doing here. Erik noticed that both Logan’s hands were heavily bandaged, but he couldn’t care less about Logan’s injuries right now.

Where’s Charles?” asked Erik without bothering to greet Logan.

Why are you asking?” asked Logan in return, with a slightly suspicious look on his face. “Erik, right?”

Yes, Erik. Charles’ boyfriend.” In spite of all his panic Erik felt also defiant. Logan was acting as though Erik was trying to get information to which he had no right. “Tell me where he is. Now.”

Logan looked taken aback.

His boyfriend? He never told me he—”

Where the fuck is he?”

The two men working in the doorway turned around and looked at Erik with slightly alarmed expressions on their faces. Erik didn’t care. All he knew was that something had happened here and that he needed to be sure that Charles was alright.

Fucking calm down,” said Logan. He wasn’t frowning anymore. Instead he looked tense and concerned. “Charles has been attacked. He’s being taken to a hospital. He’s…. Not well. I don’t know if he’s going to be OK, so don’t fucking ask me,” he added, his voice trembling a little. “Do you have his sister’s number?”

Erik nodded slowly. Numbness was spreading quickly from his brain to all his limbs. He had trouble comprehending what Logan had just said. Charles had been attacked. No. Not Charles. This couldn’t be true. Nothing could happen to Charles. Erik’s Charles. Whom he loved, although he hadn’t yet gotten the chance to tell him. Charles had to be alright. Erik needed him. He had to be OK.

Erik noticed that Logan was looking at him intently. Apparently he’d continued speaking without Erik listening to a single word.

What?” Erik croaked, forcing himself to look at Logan again. He found it extremely hard to focus, as his thoughts were spiralling away and everything that wasn’t Charles was becoming absolutely meaningless.

I said I need you to call Charles’ sister and tell her what happened. Tell her to come to the John Radcliffe Hospital, then go there yourself. You got me? Are you fit to drive?”

Erik nodded again, although he wasn’t even sure whether he’d be able to walk. His whole world seemed to be crumbling down. Nothing felt real anymore.

Logan nodded as well.

Good. I will check up on you later. There are some things I need to do.”

Through all his numbness, Erik still noticed how Logan’s voice was shaking heavily.

Logan patted Erik awkwardly on the shoulder with his bandaged right hand and walked away.

Erik just stood there for a moment, unable to move. He could hear his blood pounding in his ears and could hardly see what was going on around him. He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. This wasn’t 13 years ago. This was today and it was Charles, and there was no reason to believe that history would repeat itself. It couldn’t. Erik wouldn’t let it happen.

Somehow Erik made his legs move away from Charles’ house and towards his car. He opened the driver’s door and collapsed into the seat, teeth clenched as tightly as possible, to stop himself from crying out loud.

Raven. He had to call her.

His hands were still trembling so badly, he had trouble selecting her number from his contacts list, and when it was finally ringing, he realised he had no idea what to say to her.

Erik, hey.”

Raven—”

He couldn’t say it. He just couldn’t. It was as though a large and firm hand had closed around his throat, preventing him from speaking and breathing properly.

Erik, what’s wrong?” She sounded worried.

Raven. Charles—” He almost choked on the words that just wouldn’t come.

What about him? Erik, what the fuck is wrong?

Erik tried to reply, but no words would escape his mouth.

Erik, fucking tell me!” She was screaming now. “What about Charles? Where is he?”

He’s been attacked.” Erik’s voice was quiet and raspy, as though he hadn’t used it for years. “Raven, he’s in hospital.”

For a moment all Erik could hear was his own breath coming in strangled gasps. Then there was a short and quiet high-pitched wail. It sounded like a small animal in a lot of pain.

Raven—”

Which hospital?” she asked in a trembling voice.

The John Radcliffe—”

I’ll be right there.”

She hung up.

Erik just sat in the driver’s seat for a moment, staring numbly out of the window, unable to make sense of anything. Charles was hurt. How was that possible? How could anything have happened to Charles?

He closed his eyes, clenched his fists and forced himself to breathe deeply and calmly. He had to try and focus on what was important. Charles was in hospital. He needed Erik. And Erik was just sitting here, doing nothing, letting the situation overwhelm him. He had to get to hospital now. He had to be with Charles.

Erik opened his eyes again. It had started to rain and it was getting darker and darker, but nevertheless he could suddenly see much clearer than before. He knew where he needed to be.

Erik turned the key in the ignition lock and drove off towards the hospital. The rain was getting heavier, but Erik drove on, only one thought in his head: He needed to get to Charles.

When he reached the hospital, the rain was so heavy that Erik could hardly see five feet, and the wind was so strong, it almost blew him off his feet when he got out of his car.

Erik didn’t care. He ran through the storm towards the entrance.

At the information desk he enquired where Charles was and rushed off in the indicated direction as soon as they’d told him.

Raven was already standing in the long, bright hallway, and so was Hank, holding on to her tightly.

Any news?” Erik gasped, a little out of breath, as soon as he’d reached them.

Hank shook his head.

He’s still in the operating theatre. They said they’re doing all they can, but—”

Hank squeezed Raven more tightly, as she gave a little sob.

Erik sank down on one of the seats lined up on the wall. The same feeling of powerlessness that had overwhelmed him earlier was threatening to engulf him once more. He couldn’t let this happen. He had to stay focussed. For Charles.

But the situation was just painfully familiar. Flashes of memory of a time 13 years ago hit him again and again. This hallway looked almost like the hallway in the hospital in Berlin, where he’d been sitting for hours, waiting, praying that the doctors would be able to save his parents, only to be told that both had succumbed to their injuries. Every time these memories hit him Erik had to force himself to focus again. This was a different situation. It didn’t necessarily have to end the same way. It couldn’t. Charles would be OK. He had to be.

Erik, you’re sopping wet.”

He looked up at the sound of Hank’s voice. He’d almost forgotten that he and Raven were here, too. They were now sitting opposite him.

What?” he said, absently.

You’re drenched. I think you should try and change or you’ll get sick.”

Erik looked down at his clothes. Hank was right. Erik looked as if he’d jumped into a pool fully clothed. He was really cold, too. He hadn’t even noticed it.

I haven’t got any dry clothes. And I’m not leaving,” he said, shaking his head. He couldn’t leave now. There might be news on Charles any moment.

Erik, you’re not helping him by getting yourself seriously ill,” said Hank emphatically, with a serious expression on his face.

I’m not leaving,” Erik repeated.

Hank and Raven looked at each other, then Hank got up.

I’ll go and get you some dry clothes. Maybe I have something that fits you.”

He kissed Raven on the forehead and left.

Raven and Erik looked at each other. She looked tired and years older than the last time he’d seen her. He wondered briefly what he might look like himself.

What time is it?” she asked quietly.

He looked at his watch.

Almost 7pm.”

So they had been sitting here for over an hour already. And all the while he hadn’t even noticed that his clothes were drenched in water.

Do you think he’ll be OK?” Raven looked at him imploringly, as if Erik had the power to make sure everything would be alright.

Yes,” said Erik through gritted teeth, trying to encourage himself as much as her.

They fell silent again and didn’t speak until Hank rejoined them, handing Erik a plastic bag.

Put those on, will you,” he said.

Erik nodded and took the bag. He went into the toilet at the end of the hallway and took off his drenched clothes. Hank had thought of everything. There was a pair of boxers, a pair of jeans, a jumper, a pair of socks and even a pair of trainers in the bag. Erik put all of them on. They fit surprisingly well, even the shoes, and Erik felt some feeling return to him, now that he wasn’t freezing cold anymore. It didn’t make him feel much better, however, just maybe a little less dead inside. He tucked all of his sopping wet clothes into the plastic bag and went back into the hallway.

Raven was still sitting in exactly the same place and Hank had taken the seat next to her again, his arm around her shoulder. He smiled weakly at Erik when he joined them again.

Then they waited. A dull sense of dread was hanging in the air between them but neither of them spoke again, all lost in their own thoughts and fears. Erik was soon back to slipping in and out of old memories, although he tried very hard not to let any of them overwhelm him. He got up from his seat again. Maybe walking would help him keep those ghosts away, so he could focus on what was important. Charles.

And so Erik walked. The hallway wasn’t very long, so he kept passing Raven and Hank, but they didn’t move or look at him. Erik tried very hard to focus on anything that wasn’t horrible ideas about what might be happening to Charles right now. He tried to convince himself that everything would be alright. Charles would be OK, and he and Erik would spend much more time together. They’d have years with each other. Happy years. And Erik would tell Charles that he loved him.

At some point, Logan joined them, sitting down with Raven and Hank and talking to them in a quiet voice. Erik paid him hardly any attention, and after a few minutes Logan left again.

 

It was long past 10pm when finally a woman in green scrubs stepped out of the double wing door at the end of the hallway.

Are you Charles Xavier’s family?”

Erik stopped walking at once, his heart, which had gone back to it’s usual pace in the last hours, immediately pounding fast and hard again. Raven and Hank got up from their seats, clasping each other’s hands very tightly.

Yes,” said Raven, her voice shaking with anxiety.

Well, I’m glad to inform you that he’s stable now.”

Raven gave a loud relieved sob and hugged Hank who squeezed her tightly, also with tears in his eyes. Erik, however, hadn’t failed to notice that the doctor wasn’t smiling.

What is it?” he asked, panic rising in his chest again.

The doctor took a deep breath.

He’s suffered some very serious injuries, most of which will most likely heal completely, but unfortunately it looks like his lower spine is also affected.”

She paused for a moment. Erik’s throat tightened again. Hank and Raven broke apart to look at the doctor, their mouths open in horror.

The doctor spoke again, this time in a very gentle voice

At this point we can’t be sure how severe the damage is. There is a very wide spectrum when it comes to spinal cord injuries, and we’ll have to wait until he wakes up in order to test his sensibility and motor control.”

Neither of them spoke. Raven still stared at the doctor in shock, while Hank looked extremely troubled, clasping Raven’s hand tightly.

Erik, on the other hand, clenched his fists. The numbness which had controlled his body for the last few hours faded almost instantly, to be replaced by cold fury. Someone had done this to Charles. This was some person’s fault. All these last hours Erik hadn’t even spared a thought for the reason why Charles was here in the first place. His whole mind had been focussed on whether Charles would be alright. But now he needed to know who’d done this. Who’d dared to touch his Charles and hurt him so badly.

The doctor hadn’t stopped talking, but Erik had hardly taken in a word she’d said, too fixated on his own fury and pain. He needed to know now, and he needed to find the person responsible for this, and show them that nobody could hurt his Charles like that.

The doctor turned around and left, and Raven collapsed on one of the seats, white-faced. Erik turned towards her.

You talked to Logan earlier.”

She didn’t respond, but gave a quiet sob.

Did he say who did this?”

Erik, leave it,” said Hank, sitting down next to Raven and placing his arm around her shoulder. Erik looked at Hank. He could barely stop himself from shouting. But he had to control himself now. He needed to know.

You listened, too, didn’t you? Who did this?”

Hank looked at him for a moment.

Logan thinks it was Cain,” he said then. “Apparently he thinks that this was Cain’s reaction to the interview Charles gave. They’re looking for him now. Where are you going?” he added, shouting after Erik who’d turned around and walked away towards the exit.

So Charles’ maniac of a stepbrother had done this. Erik should have known. Hadn’t Charles told him that Cain had once beaten a guy to a pulp because he’d called his father a ‘pansy’?

The police had been looking for him for hours now. But with some luck Cain hadn’t returned home yet, and Erik would find him before Logan did. Because Erik knew something the police didn’t.

Darkness had fallen already and it had stopped raining. The air was colder and fresher than it had been in weeks. Erik took a deep breath on the way to his car. He hadn’t been this focussed in hours. He knew exactly where he needed to go. He had to find the bastard Cain Marko. This scumbag would never touch Charles again. Erik would make sure of that.

It wasn’t a long drive to the Glory , the gay bar that Erik had been to a few times before, and Erik very quickly found a place to park his car.

He walked down the street, looking for the pub Charles had talked about and found it very quickly. It was rather small and unremarkable, and a sign over the entrance read ‘The White Horse.’

Erik went inside and looked around. The pub was almost empty. A small group of people was sitting around a table in the corner and one man was seated alone at the bar. He had very short hair and a rather bulky stature.

Clenching his fists, Erik approached him.

Are you Cain Marko?” he asked.

The man turned around and looked at Erik. He seemed to be having trouble getting him into focus. It was obvious that he was quite drunk.

And who are you?” he slurred.

Are you Cain Marko?” Erik repeated, even though he was sure that he’d found the right guy.

I guess.” Cain Marko turned back towards the bar.

Erik felt a new rush of anger. Cain seemed quite unconcerned by anything that was going on. This man who had hurt Charles so badly that they’d had to fear for his life for hours was sitting here, having a drink, not caring whether Charles was still alive.

Erik grabbed Cain by the shoulder, turned him around to face him and pulled him upright. Cain looked at him with a rather surprised expression on his face.

You bastard,” Erik said through gritted teeth. “You fucking scumbag.”

Cain didn’t reply. Erik wasn’t even sure whether he was in any state to process what Erik was saying. Out of the corner of his eyes he saw the people at the table in the corner turn around in their seats to watch.

You did this to Charles,” Erik growled. “You fucking maniac.”

Cain still didn’t respond, but a slightly worried expression crossed his face.

Erik’s fingers twitched. All he wanted to do now was beat Cain into a pulp, let him feel exactly what Charles had felt, make sure that he’d never hurt Charles again. Yet, unbidden and sudden, something that Charles had said last week, sneaked into his mind.

Erik pulled Cain closer to him, so they were almost nose to nose.

I’m telling you now,” he said very quietly, his voice shaking with suppressed fury. “Right now there’s nothing I’d like to do more than push you to the floor and kick your stupid face until not even your own father could possibly recognise it. But you know what? Charles wouldn’t want me to do it.” He swallowed. He could hardly believe what he was saying “You see? You worthless little shit. He’s so much better than you. He’s better than all of us, and you—”

Erik almost choked on his own words. He let go of Cain, who stumbled backwards and only managed not to fall to the floor because he got hold of one of the bar stools. Erik swallowed. He had to get out of here or he wouldn’t be able to control himself.

Just when he’d turned towards the door and was about to leave, he heard Cain’s slurred voice again.

You’re a fucking homo, too, aren’t you? Are you fucking my pervert of a stepbrother?”

Without thinking, Erik spun around and rammed his fist into Cain’s stomach with all the force he could muster. Cain collapsed with a groan, and Erik forced himself to turn around and walk away, resisting the urge to lunge at Cain and break every bone in his body.

He walked until he reached a small alleyway and turned into it. He then took out his phone to dial 999.

A voice answered at once.

Emergency services. Which service do you require?”

Police,” Erik breathed out.

It only took seconds until another voice spoke.

Police. What is your emergency?”

Tell Logan Howlett that Cain Marko is at a pub called the White Horse.” Erik gave them the address. Then he hung up.

For a moment. Erik just stood there, staring at the brick wall in front of him. Then, for the first time this evening, a sob escaped his mouth. He couldn’t help it. Tears started running down his cheeks, as he slowly sank to the still wet ground, his body shaking with desperate sobs.

Chapter Text

Epilogue – Raven

 

The only sound that disrupted the nightly silence was the continued beeping of the monitor which kept track of Charles’ vital signs.

Raven sat on a chair next to her brother’s bed, her head resting on the pillow near his shoulder, her hand holding on tightly to his, while she gently stroked it with her thumb. Hank stood leaning against the window on the other side of the bed, watching them quietly.

Charles hadn’t woken up yet, but at least he was breathing on his own. Nevertheless he looked terrible. His face was hardly recognisable. There were bandages around his head and a little splint to fix his nose which had obviously been broken. The parts of his face which weren’t bandaged were heavily bruised and swollen. Raven didn’t even want to think about what his body might look like under the sheets.

She still could hardly believe what had happened. Back when they’d still lived with their mother, Kurt and Cain, she’d often been afraid that Cain would truly hurt Charles badly. Yet, somehow the worst that had ever happened had been a broken arm. It had been such a relief when she and Charles had finally moved out together. She’d been sure that Charles was safe then. That Cain couldn’t get to him anymore.

She squeezed Charles’ hand tightly, suppressing a sob. She couldn’t understand how anyone could possibly hurt him. Charles was the most pacifistic person in the world.

The door of the hospital room screeched a little as it opened and Erik stepped inside. He looked as though he’d been through hell and back, but Raven couldn’t help feeling a little angry with him. Where had he been? It had been several hours since he’d left without any explanation. He shouldn’t leave Charles’ side when he was this ill.

Her anger evaporated at once, however, when she saw the way Erik looked at her brother. The amount of pain and shock, and yet incredible tenderness in Erik’s face at the sight of Charles was hardly bearable. It reflected exactly how Raven felt herself.

Without saying a word, Erik took the chair which stood next to the door and carried it over to the other side of Charles’ bed. He sat down, took Charles’ hand, and kissed it softly.

They stayed like this for at least another hour without speaking at all. Erik’s eyes never left Charles’ face once, as though he was hoping to get any kind of sign that Charles had registered they were there, and he kept caressing Charles’ hand with his own.

It must have been at least 3am when finally Raven felt Charles’ fingers twitch a little. At once she lifted her head up from the pillow to look at his face. His eyes were still closed, but his lips were moving slightly, although they made no sound.

She threw Erik a look. He, too, had noticed the first signs of Charles waking up and had leant forward, so his face was a lot closer to Charles’.

Extremely carefully, so as not to hurt Charles’ bruised skin, Erik brought a finger to his face and caressed his cheek tenderly.

“Charles?” he asked very quietly.

Charles sighed softly, his eyes still closed, and moved his head a little. His lips moved again, and he mumbled something that wasn’t quite intelligible.

Raven leant closer to him as well, trying to understand what he was saying.

“What is it, Charles?”

Charles’ eyelids fluttered slightly, and his lips moved again.

“Erik,” he said barely audibly.

Erik made a strangled sound, and kissed Charles’ fingers.

“I’m here, Charles.”

Charles gave another soft sigh and his eyelids fluttered again. It looked like he was trying to open his eyes, but his eyelids were still too heavy.

“Erik,” he muttered again.

Silent tears began to run down Erik’s cheeks, but he smiled softly.

“I’m here, Charles,” he repeated. “I’m not leaving. I love you.”