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fic: Invisible Prints

Title: Invisible Prints
Author: fengirl88
Fandom: X-Men First Class
Pairing: Erik/Charles
Rating: R
Warnings: no standard warnings apply; additional warning at end of story constitutes a spoiler.
Wordcount: 2747
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine.
Summary: Memories of last night keep crowding into Erik's mind; he feels as if what happened with Xavier is written all over him. If MacTaggert knew how her officer and her star witness had spent the hours until dawn, she’d have Erik's hide and his badge.
A/N: Part 6 of Patterns of Light. Thanks to [personal profile] kalypso for her excellent beta; this one is for her. Thanks also to everyone who encouraged me at #xmentales, dofp_marathon and ushobwri.

“Oh, for the love of–” MacTaggert’s disgusted expression is one more thing Erik didn’t need to face this morning.

He knows he looks like shit: underslept, hungover and still wearing yesterday’s clothes. Unshaven, too, because there wasn’t time – they’d only just made it by 8.30 as it was.

Xavier at least had a clean shirt to throw on, but he’s looking pretty rough as well.

“Is he fit to do this?” MacTaggert hisses at Erik.

“I’m fine,” Xavier says.

His voice is hoarse, and his mouth is swollen. Erik tries very hard not to think about the reason for that, but memories of last night keep crowding into his mind. He hopes MacTaggert isn’t picking up on the signs of what happened between them, though he feels as if it’s written all over him. She looks ready to bounce him off the walls as it is, but if she knew how he and her star witness had spent the hours until dawn she’d have his hide and his badge.

She doesn’t suspect, Xavier’s voice says in his head, but she will if you go on agonizing about it.

Easy for him to say; he’s not the one who’s jeopardized his career by unprofessional behaviour. Erik pushes the thought away quickly – he’ll have plenty of time to reflect on his sins today, and Xavier needs to concentrate on his deposition.

The door at the end of the hall opens, and Raven Darkholme comes in, right on cue. She’s in her blonde passing-for-human form but shifts to blue as she shakes hands with Xavier, who looks delighted.

“How wonderful!” he says. “Agent MacTaggert didn’t tell me you had such a gorgeous mutation.”

Is he flirting with her? Erik’s stomach knots with jealous rage, and he tries to focus on his breathing, to will his reaction away.

“I’d love to see more of what you can do,” Xavier says, turning on the charm.

“Don’t worry, you will,” Darkholme says, plainly not in the mood for flirting. Her blue skin bristles like an angry cat’s as she shifts her form again, and suddenly Shaw is standing there in front of them.

“Fuck!” Cassidy jumps back, alarmed. He’s new, of course; hasn’t seen her in action before.

Erik’s seen it a few times, watching her turn herself into the defence attorney when she’s rehearsing a witness for court, but it still staggers him how much she can convey the feel of a person, not just their physical appearance. His skin crawls.

“Is this a game to you?” It’s Shaw’s voice, too, hard with contempt.

“No,” Xavier says. “I’m sorry.” He’s gone very white, and looks as if he might be about to collapse – from fear of what the real Shaw will do to him, or something more than that, Erik’s not sure.

“Good,” Shaw says. His eyes glow gold, and the blue of Darkholme’s skin sweeps back, obliterating his form. “Then let’s get to work,” she says.

“Cassidy, show them to number 3,” MacTaggert barks.

Cassidy’s clearly more than a little spooked, but he snaps to it.

“Shit,” MacTaggert says, pushing her hair back with both hands. “She’s never done that in the hall before.”

“Looks like the guy really got under her skin,” Summers wisecracks.

MacTaggert gives him a death glare, and he remembers some urgent filing that needs his attention.

“Go home, Lehnsherr,” MacTaggert says wearily. “This is going to take hours. And for God’s sake clean yourself up.”

Erik knows better than to argue. He mutters an apology and heads back to his apartment. It’s not his fault he ran out of clothes – it wouldn’t have happened if the car hadn’t broken down and stranded them in the middle of nowhere, or if MacTaggert hadn’t told him to go straight to the hotel with Xavier last night. Obviously he couldn’t have taken a witness home with him, though it’s a bit late now to be thinking about keeping his work and personal life separate. He lost that battle long ago, when he let himself fantasise about what he wanted to do to Xavier as he slept.

Two nights ago, he remembers with a shock. It seems much longer than that. Something’s gone wrong with his sense of time.

Hangover and lack of sleep will do that. And sex, Erik thinks, caught off balance again by the memory of Charles sucking his cock that first time, the astonishment of that perfect wet heat and pressure, so good that he’d thought Charles must be reading his mind but he didn’t care any more, he wanted Charles to go on doing it exactly like that while he cursed and groaned and begged, wanting to come and not wanting it to end, feeling the surge of Charles’s pleasure along with his own as he came, so hard he thought he would die of it –

There’s a screech of brakes, a car horn blaring and a yell of “Watch where you’re going, Mac!” from the cab driver as Erik jumps back just in time. That would have been a really stupid accident, crossing the road to his apartment building. He’d never hear the end of it from MacTaggert.

The apartment looks a shade tidier than he remembers leaving it, though he doesn’t think the cleaning woman’s been. Erik staggers into the bedroom and kicks off his shoes before crashing onto the bed and falling heavily asleep.

He dreams he’s in bed with Charles in a different hotel room that seems familiar the way places do in dreams. They’re kissing like lovers, holding each other tight as if nothing else existed but the two of them, and they’re completely happy, nuzzling and caressing, laughing, murmuring nonsense to each other. Erik wakes and finds that his face is wet with tears.

Where the everliving fuck did that come from? He could understand having sex dreams about Xavier after what happened, but the dream was about something altogether more dangerous. He’d have to be crazy to risk that with anyone, let alone Shaw’s lover. Ex-lover. Whatever Charles is. The thought gnaws at him, worse because of last night.

The intimate knowledge of Charles’s body too easily maps onto Erik’s jealous fantasies. He doesn’t want to imagine Charles in bed with Shaw, but he can’t stop himself. Did he say those things to Shaw, make those soft desperate noises, bite Shaw’s shoulder as he came?

Stop it. May as well get up now he’s awake. He levers himself off the bed, strips off his clothes and heads for the shower. First time in days he hasn’t needed a cold one because of Charles Xavier, not that that’s a helpful thought.

The image Xavier put in his head comes back to him again: Charles on his knees in the shower, sucking Erik’s cock and tugging at his own. It’s as sharp as if it had happened last night, rather than being a fantasy Xavier projected at him to torment him.

Was that the point all along, to torment him? Or had he always meant to seduce Erik, even though he denied it? Had he wanted Erik from the first, as much as Erik wanted him?

No good thinking about that: he’ll only end up with more of a headache than he already has. Erik towels himself dry, shaves as carefully as his still-groggy state allows, and puts on clean clothes. He makes himself a pot of coffee and an omelette, and toasts the last of the bread. The food helps to bring him round, and he feels more like himself.

If the deposition isn’t wrapped up today and he’s going to spend another night at the hotel guarding Charles, he needs something to fend off the temptation of alcohol and sex. It’s bad enough to have lapsed like that once; a repetition would be disastrous. Maybe reading is the answer. Normally he’d have a book by the bed, but he must have finished whatever the last one was – he can’t remember now.

He takes down The Once and Future King, an old favourite. He knows parts of the early sections by heart, used to reread it every year. He drops the book on top of the clean clothes in his attaché case.

This afternoon feels cooler than yesterday, which is a mercy. He gets a cup of coffee from the stand at Dupont Circle and sits for a while watching the chess-players at their game.

Truth or dare? Now that the hangover has lifted, he’s more aware of his body’s pleasanter aches, of the marks Charles left on him, the bruises and love-bites he wears under his clothes.

If Charles had chosen Truth, what would he have answered to the question Erik wanted to ask, and knew he shouldn’t: What was Shaw to you?

He’ll be telling Darkholme all about that right now. Well, maybe not all. Just the facts, ma’am.

The traffic in mutants: illegal immigrants fleeing the harsher anti-mutant laws of their native land. Sold on into slavery, as near as makes no difference, kept in thrall by the promise of a work permit or the threat of being handed over to Immigration and sent back to the persecution they’d fled. And, bound up with all that, the traffic in drugs, marijuana and heroin and cocaine. A network of corruption spreading through the city of New Orleans and beyond. Crooked cops and lawyers and politicians, all of them in Shaw’s pocket: no chance of a fair trial in the Big Easy.

How long had Xavier stood by and watched it happen before he traded being a whore for being a federal witness?

Sex changes everything, and it changes nothing. His body remembers last night in echoes of pleasure that make him catch his breath, make his heart skip a beat. He wants it again, all of it, the heat of Charles’s mouth on him, the bruising clasp of his hands on Erik’s hips, holding him on the edge of orgasm till Erik was half-crazy with needing to come. The extravagant astonishment of Charles’s response as Erik stroked his cock, god yes like that just there so perfect Erik please. The openness and vulnerability he hadn’t expected to find in Xavier, an intimacy beyond nakedness.

There’s all of that, and then there’s the knowledge of what Xavier did. The fact of Shaw, which Erik can’t get over, no matter how much his body aches to be back in bed with Charles. The enigma of what Shaw was to him. Master. Lover. Keeper. Dupe.

He betrayed Shaw, the jeering voice in Erik’s head says. It sounds like that blonde bitch Emma Frost. He’ll betray you too. You’re a fool, Detective Lehnsherr.

Erik grimaces. Even paperwork would be better than this. He heads back to the main office and buries himself in files and report writing for the next two hours.

Charles is pale and drawn when he finally emerges from the interview room, and he barely acknowledges Erik’s presence. Darkholme, back to her natural blue form, looks grim and exhausted. The last few hours must have been rough.

You have no idea. Charles’s voice in his head sounds shaky and strained.

“Back to the hotel?” Erik says.

“Where else?” Charles snaps. It’s not like they have a choice.

Erik reminds himself to count to ten. “OK.”

The phone rings in MacTaggert’s office. Whatever’s at the other end of it, it’s clearly bad news: she pounds the desk with her fist, twice.

“Shit,” she says. “OK. OK. Shit.”

“What is it?” Erik asks, fully expecting to get his head bitten off.

“There’s a fire at the Westin,” MacTaggert says. “They’re trying to get it under control, but–”

“Shaw did this,” Xavier says. He looks as if he’s going to be sick.

“We don’t know that for certain,” MacTaggert says. “But you can’t go back there.”

Is anywhere going to be safe? Erik tries to tamp down the thought, but he sees Xavier flinch, and knows he was thinking the same.

“Give me an escort,” Darkholme says. “I’ll decoy them away.”

Her skin ripples, and there are two identical Xaviers staring at each other in MacTaggert’s office.

“Get him a uniform,” MacTaggert orders.

Xavier in uniform looks younger, more vulnerable still. Damn it. These are not thoughts Erik should be having. It’s bad enough that he had sex with the witness he’s supposed to be protecting, but developing feelings for him –

“Where can we go?” Xavier asks MacTaggert.

She gnaws at her thumbnail, thinking. “How safe is your apartment, Lehnsherr?”

“As safe as I can make it,” Erik says, startled. MacTaggert must really be on the ropes if she’s suggesting that.

“OK,” Xavier says. “Let’s go there.”

Nobody follows them to the apartment; Erik keeps a close watch, but it looks like they’re safe for now.

“Darkholme’s plan must have worked,” he says, unlocking the door.

“Will she be OK?” Xavier asks.

“She’s good at disappearing.”

Neither of them says that might not be enough.

“She’s one hell of a lawyer,” Xavier says. He sounds like a boxer coming round after a knockout punch.

“Yeah,” Erik says. He tries not to wonder if she turned into Shaw again.

“I know I’ll have to face Sebastian,” Xavier says abruptly.

Erik’s gut clenches with jealousy, which is ridiculous: of course Xavier would think of Shaw by his first name.

“I won’t be able to protect myself,” Xavier says. “She explained it all very thoroughly, not that I didn’t know already. But the collar, the drugs –”

“Yeah, some choice,” Erik says. However much he dislikes telepaths, he knows the court system is rough on them.

“It’s not a choice,” Xavier says, very white. “She says his lawyers will push for both, because my telepathy is so strong.”


“And you know what else?” Xavier says, his voice tight with panic. “I still won’t be able to shut him out altogether. Even with the drugs and the collar.”

Erik knows the suppressants are designed to block telepaths from influencing the jury or tampering with witnesses, but he’s never stopped to wonder how that feels. He gets a flash of it now: the helplessness of a mind held open as the flood of Shaw’s rage and hatred bleaches through it, an agony beyond enduring –

Xavier makes a noise that’s not quite a sob, not quite a whimper, and that’s it, that’s too much. Erik pulls him into his arms and holds him tight as he shakes, murmuring nonsense into Charles’s hair as if he’s a small child or an animal.

“Cold,” Xavier says, his teeth chattering.

Erik’s seen shock enough times to recognize it. “Let’s get you warm,” he says, grabbing a blanket from the back of the couch.

“I – can I take a shower?” He sounds so young and lost that it makes Erik’s chest hurt.

“Sure, go ahead. I’ll heat us up some soup.”

“My things are at the hotel,” Charles says, as if it’s only just occurred to him.

“I can lend you something,” Erik says. “I even have a chess set if you want to play later.”

“Thanks.” Charles manages a shaky smile.

Erik heats up a can of chicken soup, but the shower’s still going, so he turns out the heat again. He can imagine the thought of Shaw would take a long while to wash away.

Might as well unpack if they’re going to be here for the night. He pulls The Once and Future King out of his attaché case, and something falls out of the book onto the carpet – a white strip of paper, one inch by six.

That’s odd. He wouldn’t normally leave a bookmark in a book he’d finished, or put it back on the shelf part read.

He bends down and picks up the strip of paper, feels the shiny texture of the reverse. He turns it over and stares at the impossible images confronting him.

Four snapshots from a photo booth. Two men, laughing, making faces at each other, kissing.

Himself, and Charles Xavier.

The shower stops, and the bathroom door opens.

“That feels better,” Xavier says.

Erik stares from the Charles Xavier standing in the doorway with a towel around his waist, to the Charles Xavier in the photographs, and back again. He wonders if the world has gone mad, or if he has.

“Erik?” Xavier says. “Are you OK?”

Erik’s head is pounding and he feels sick. He holds out the strip of photographs to Xavier: “What the hell is this?”


Title from Maria McCann, As Meat Loves Salt

ADDITIONAL WARNING = SPOILER contains implied mindwipe, the context of which, including whether it was consensual, is not yet clear.

Also posted at http://fengirl88.dreamwidth.org/160867.html with comment count unavailable comments.


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