Fandom: X-Men: First Class
Pairing/Characters: Erik/Charles; OC
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine.
Summary: He calls Erik my friend and the words resonate with a meaning only Charles can hear. There's a dangerous pleasure in it, that hidden meaning he longs to be able to share with Erik. Maybe one day, or one night, he'll find a way to tell him. But time is running out and he hasn't done it yet.
A/N: This story was inspired by ginbitch's wonderful XMFC fic, The Heart's Dark Crossroads; my thanks to her for allowing me to borrow her OC from that fic, and for her encouragement in writing this one. I'm also very grateful to blooms84 and kate_lear for their beta wisdom.
This one is for kalypso_v, because of Oxford and the Greeks.
Charles's game is off again tonight. He's lost twice in a row and the third round's not looking good either.
Losing to Erik last night had been predictable after the events of the previous twenty-four hours. Shaw's attack on the CIA facility. Trying to deal with the frightened and grieving young. The loss of Darwin – his mind still winces away from that. The loss of Angel to Shaw, a different sorrow. And then coming back here to a house full of memories, after so many years away, with an impossible task and not enough time to do it in.
Anyone could be forgiven for playing badly in the circumstances.
But today has been calmer, and they're starting to find a rhythm. Hank working on the calculations for Sean's flight, Alex setting fire to things in a place that's as safe for that as anywhere can be, Sean breaking glass and bending metal with his voice. He's not sure what Raven's up to, but she seems to be occupied with something, so that's good. For the first time he's feeling a real pleasure in teaching, too, knowing that he's making a difference: that they trust him, and that they're beginning to trust themselves. A good day.
He'd thought he'd play better tonight, but it's just not happening. He wishes he didn't know why.
He calls Erik my friend and the words resonate with a meaning only Charles can hear. There's a dangerous pleasure in it, that hidden meaning he longs to be able to share with Erik. Maybe one day, or one night, he'll find a way to tell him. But time is running out and he hasn't done it yet.
“Check,” Erik says again. He sounds amused, as if it's a catchphrase that gets funnier every time.
“Gah,” Charles says, disgusted with himself.
Erik laughs. “You should see your face,” he says.
Charles doesn't want to. Bad enough he's making a fool of himself; no need to sabotage his game even more by seeing how stupid he looks to Erik. Or by dwelling on what he's done wrong, rather than focusing on what's still to play for. He's clumsy with humiliation, almost knocking his remaining bishop over in his haste to get out of check.
“You're not usually this easy,” Erik teases him. “What's got into you?”
He looks at Erik sitting there, stretching out a hand towards the chessboard, apparently relaxed but with that ruthlessness and intent that's always simmering away in him.
You, he wants to say. It's you, Erik.
“Nothing,” he says. “I'm fine.”
Erik doesn't have to say Liar; his face says it for him. He moves his knight with lazy confidence, and Charles sees the game closing in on him again.
When did you happen to me? Charles wonders. How long has this been going on?
Erik runs towards the Russian general's house, flinging nooses of barbed wire in his wake, maiming soldiers right and left without a second thought. Shaw's not there but Erik's clearly so crazed with determination to find him that nothing can stop him.
“We have to pull out,” the CIA man says urgently.
“Sorry,” Charles says to Moira, “I can't leave him.”
It's been that way all along.
“There's someone out there – someone in the water!”
The rush of violent emotion, so strong it feels as if his head might explode, hatred and old pain and fear and murderous rage all bound up and knotted together, a nest of furious snakes. The shock of the impact as he plunges into the ocean, knocking the breath out of him, leaving him desperate, lungs bursting as he tries to stop this man from killing himself, killing them both. Gripping Erik around the throat from behind, clinging to him, like a parody of a lovers' embrace.
That first encounter, the closest they've ever been, or are ever likely to be. He's kept his hands to himself since then. Kept his mind away from Erik's, too.
“What do you know about me?” Erik flings at him when Charles tries to stop him leaving the CIA facility.
“Everything,” Charles says. It's an exaggeration, but he can't resist showing off a bit.
“Then you know to stay out of my head,” Erik says furiously.
He's always done that with the ones who really matter to him.
It's frightening, how quickly Erik becomes one of them.
When he sees Erik standing there in the doorway the next morning, Charles is so pleased that it shakes him.
“Erik! You came back,” he says. He tries to keep the smile from his face but he feels as if he's alight with joy.
He doesn't need to think which side he's on when Erik and the CIA man disagree: “I'm with Erik.”
He'd agree to a lot more than a road trip – long days of driving without respite, dingy motels, bad food in diners, the sort of thing that usually makes him shudder just thinking about it – if it means he can keep this extraordinary man by his side.
They sit side by side on the bed in the strip club, drinking champagne, and Erik jokes with Angel: “We thought that we'd show you ours if you show us yours.” She gives him a pitying look (“Baby, that is not the way it works around here”), but bursts into delighted laughter when Erik summons the ice-bucket with a snap of his fingers (“More tea, Vicar?”).
Charles is so happy he's almost giddy with it, has to resist the temptation to do something really silly. He had no idea this trip would be such fun.
“We were hoping you could take us all the way,” Charles says to Darwin, and Erik makes the flag on the taxi meter drop, like the clash of a cymbal punctuating a corny joke.
Erik teases him a lot, which is unexpected, but Charles likes it. Maybe he shouldn't enjoy it quite this much.
Somewhere on the long drive in Darwin's cab, Charles dozes off, and wakes up to find his face pressed against Erik's chest, Erik's arm resting lightly across his back. It feels so good that it scares Charles witless; scares him so much that he insists on picking up a girl in a bar as soon as they stop. When he goes back to her hotel room, he's perturbed to find that he can't get an erection. Never happened to him before. Luckily he's good at the other things women like, so there are no complaints; quite the reverse.
He comes back late to the motel room he and Erik are sharing, knowing he smells of sex. Erik shouts at him for waking him up, but Charles is pretty sure he wasn't asleep.
A cigar-smoking mutant in a bar tells them to go fuck themselves. The words hang in the air, full of something that feels like a threat, or maybe a promise. Neither of them says anything about the incident.
That night, Charles lies awake till he's sure Erik really is asleep. He's afraid of what might leak from his mind into Erik's if he relaxes his guard and lets himself start to drift off. He doesn't dare touch himself for relief, though he's aching with arousal.
The dog goes on barking frantically, but Charles makes them invisible to the Russian soldier peering into the back of the truck. Erik clasps his knee in congratulation, and the heat of the touch lingers and spreads, muddying Charles's thoughts.
When Erik rushes into the house, Charles isn't quick enough to stop him. He's not sure he could risk that intimacy of the mind with Erik now anyway, even if he'd been more alert. All he can do is run after Erik, try again to save him from the destruction he's so constantly drawn to.
On the first night back in his childhood home, Charles lies awake, alone. He grips the iron frame of the bed he hasn't slept in for so many years. He imagines the metal curling around his wrists, holding him captive as Erik strips him naked and pushes into Charles with his fingers, his tongue, his cock. Everything Charles never knew he wanted, never wanted before. Now he can't stop thinking about it.
I'll show you mine if you show me yours, he imagines saying to Erik, and Erik laughs and says I thought you'd never ask. Erik's wearing nothing but a bath-towel around his waist, and he unwraps himself like an impossible, beautiful present, so magnificent and hard that Charles's mouth literally waters with desire as he sinks to his knees. He's never done this before, never imagined doing it, but in the fantasy he knows exactly what to do, licking and teasing and sucking and stroking till Erik clutches his hair and cries out and floods his mouth, coming and coming and coming.
Erik looks up from the chessboard and for a moment Charles is afraid he's caught a glimpse of the images playing behind his eyes like a string of X-rated scenes cut by the censor.
Charles reinforces the wards he's placed around his mind, the way he did last night before taking himself in hand, the way he'll do again tonight. Erik doesn't say anything; the barriers must be holding so far.
He wonders if tonight will be the night when something finally breaks through. Wonders if he wants it to. Wonders what would happen if it did.
I could make you stay, he'd told Erik, that night at the CIA facility.
The things he could make Erik do, the things he wants to do to Erik, shimmer like a heat haze in the room till everything feels blurred and pulled out of shape. He knows his game is going to hell because he's staring at Erik's hands and his eyes and his mouth rather than watching the board.
And Erik goes on calmly breaking through his defences, capturing piece after piece till Charles is cornered again and losing feels dangerously like winning.
“Your move,” Erik says. “If you're still playing, that is.”
“Sorry,” Charles says, staring ruefully at another impending checkmate. “I was – woolgathering.”
“Not concentrating,” Charles translates. He's not sure if the idiom's one Erik doesn't know, or if Erik's just mocking his old-fashioned phrasing.
“I can see that,” Erik says ironically. “Are you going to surrender?”
Oh god. Charles can feel the blush scalding his face. “Really, I'm fine,” he says.
“Woolgathering,” Erik says again. He grins. “Keep on like this and you'll have enough for a new pair of gloves.”
“Ha,” Charles says, squirming.
“Maybe even with fingers this time,” Erik says. “Or would that interfere with your powers?”
Cold enough first thing this morning for gloves and heavier sweaters, the first touch of autumn sharp in the air. Sitting on the grass and talking, Erik looking so much more relaxed than usual, so damn touchable that Charles could hardly resist the impulse to grab a handful, two handfuls, of that warm sweater and push Erik down onto the grass, lie on top of him and kiss him and kiss him –
“Want some more?” Erik says, breaking in on Charles's thoughts. He gestures at Charles's empty glass.
Charles is fairly sure it's a bad idea to say yes, but he does it anyway. The good burn of the Scotch makes him believe for a moment that things are possible, even when they're not.
If Erik was a girl, Charles would know what to do. He's never had to resort to mind control to persuade a woman into bed with him. The groovy mutation line is corny, sure, but it gets their attention and once he has that the rest usually follows.
Would you want him this much if you could have him?
He's not sure whose voice that is in his head, but he tells it to shut up anyway.
It's like a bad joke, isn't it? And the joke's on him. Charles Xavier, who can always get what he wants, aching with longing for the one thing he can't have.
Even if he did use his powers to get Erik into bed, it wouldn't be enough. Because Erik doesn't want him that way, that's obvious. And anyway, Charles can't bring himself to do it. He's never minded bending the rules a bit to get what he wants, what he needs, but this would be different. He can't have this without tricking someone who matters to him. His friend.
It's unsettling to be here with Erik, in a house so full of his old loneliness and longing.
Charles would never tell Erik the real answer to his mocking question (“Such hardship, Charles, how did you survive?”). Knowing what he knows of Erik's childhood, he'd be ashamed to mention his own. But he keeps catching glimpses of that poor little rich boy, starved for affection and companionship.
Friendship with other boys had never happened, somehow: he was shy and constrained with the ones he liked, fearing the rejection he was sure would follow if he allowed himself to risk intimacy. They wouldn't want any more to do with him if they realized he wasn't normal.
He thought he'd finally found a friend in the strange small blue girl who broke into the house and pretended to be his mother. Someone like him, at last – and it was true, up to a point. (“A hardship softened by me”, Raven said to Erik.) But the mutation slowed her aging in more ways than the physical; the more time passed, the more the age gap between them seemed to widen. He felt responsible for her, and he didn't want to be responsible for anyone.
At Harvard, and still more at Oxford, all he wanted to do was immerse himself in pleasure, find a way to stop thinking all the time. To escape from being the cold clever unlovable child he still felt he was inside.
“I'm your only friend,” Raven said to him, the shock of the words like icy water dashed in his face, making him gasp.
It wasn't quite true, but he didn't correct her. He'd never told her about Reginald. He knew she wouldn't understand.
He wasn't entirely sure he understood it himself.
Reginald Blunt: his first friend at Oxford. The aesthete across the hall. The college queer. Reginald, who taught him the hidden meaning of friendship, its history as the word for love between men. Reginald who wanted something from Charles that he never asked for in words. Who longed to touch Charles, but never did.
Charles looks across the chessboard at Erik frowning with concentration as he works out his next move, and he wants Erik so much he can hardly breathe, wants him so much he thinks Erik must be able to feel it.
For the first time, he wonders if this is how Reginald felt when he looked at him.
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