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.
“One more?” Erik says. “Or do you want to go to bed?”
For a mad moment Charles almost wonders if Erik knows. That's the third time tonight he's come out with something that sounds like a sexual invitation or innuendo. Charles tells himself it's just his imagination, it must be, because even Erik wouldn't tease him about something like that.
Erik looks as if he's teasing, but that could easily just be about how badly Charles is playing tonight. Damn it. It's bad enough feeling this way about Erik without this added humiliation.
“Yes, another!” Charles says vehemently.
“OK,” Erik says. “If you're sure.”
He looks sceptical, amused. Charles wants to tear Erik's clothes off and bend him over that bloody armchair and fuck him till neither of them can remember their own name – and God only knows where that came from because that really isn't how he thinks about this sort of thing.
“Your turn to go first,” Charles says, trying to remember how to breathe normally. Trying not to stare at Erik's hands, trying not to imagine licking and sucking those long fingers until Erik groans and swears and jerks his hips and says Now, Charles, fuck, now, I want you –
Erik is definitely staring at him. Oh god.
“Shouldn't you go first again?” Erik says mildly. “Since you lost the last one?”
The last three. Before last night he'd never lost more than twice in a row. To anyone. He makes his opening move, grimacing.
Erik's one of very few who's ever been able to beat him at all. A match, and more than a match for Charles. In this way as in others.
He's never encountered anyone before who gave off such an incredible sense of raw power. And the idea that he's the one who could help Erik free that power, so that it's no longer dependant on rage and pain, makes his head swim –
Maybe he shouldn't have had that last Scotch. He looks dubiously at his almost empty glass.
“Do telepaths have worse hangovers?” Erik asks, catching the look. “I suppose we'll find out in the morning.” He grins.
“I'm not drunk,” Charles says, indignantly, taking Erik's pawn.
“Of course not,” Erik says, retaliating.
Blast. Four defeats in a row would finish him, he's sure of that.
He tries to concentrate on the game, but he's miserably conscious that his timing couldn't possibly be worse. Even if this weren't such an obviously terrible idea, even if Erik felt the same way, to be doing this now, with the world rushing headlong to destruction –
He wonders if there's a mutant somewhere out there who could bend time out of shape, make this brief interlude last longer. For a moment he thinks longingly of Cerebro, though he knows it's impossible to go back.
And if the world had to wait till he got the courage to tell Erik how he feels – well, he's not sure any mutant would have the power to stretch time that far.
He'd thought he didn't want a sexual relationship with another man. That he just wasn't made that way, as Reginald was. Probably just as well, given how unhappy it made Reginald. But then Reginald had a melancholy streak anyway: the tragic model of the invert, a soul of one sex trapped in a body of the other, suited him only too well. Impossible to imagine him embracing those dangerous pleasures his friend at Christ Church enjoyed. (Charles still wasn't sure he believed the man's story about the double-decker bus.)
Charles never thought he'd be in Reginald's position, hopelessly yearning for something he couldn't have. He'd always thought of himself as pragmatic; if he couldn't get exactly what he wanted, he'd find something else that would do. Always assumed the difference between himself and Reginald wasn't just sexual temperament but that he wanted to be happy, and Reginald didn't.
He thinks about that young man, little more than a boy, who'd offered himself to Reginald last year. Charles had found it hard to understand at the time why Reginald said no, though he knew Reginald was afraid of blackmail, especially now he was a Fellow. They'd talked about that after seeing Victim the previous month. Four years after the Wolfenden Report and still no sign of a change in the law.
He'd wanted to reassure Reginald about the boy's motives, to say It's all right, I know he's not trying to trap you, I read his mind, and he really wants you. But he'd told himself Reginald wouldn't believe him, would probably think he was crazy. Anyway, he could hardly scold Raven for carelessness and then put both of them at risk by telling a non-mutant about his mutation, even one he knew as well as he knew Reginald. He didn't want to admit to himself how important it was to him to go on passing as normal: mutant and proud was a hollow claim.
He'd stayed silent and felt guilty, watching the ardent boy's hope fade as Reginald pushed him away.
Remembering all that, Charles thinks it wouldn't have done any good, even if he'd had the courage to tell Reginald what he'd seen. He was expecting Reginald to settle for second best with no idea what that meant. He understands it now: if some other man offered himself the way that boy did to Reginald, he'd make the same choice Reginald made. It's Erik he wants, and only Erik. Now and always. He knows this, with absolute certainty, without knowing how.
There's no explanation for it, except the one Montaigne gave for why he loved the man he did: Because it was him; because it was me. The anthology was full of things like that; he'd found it embarrassingly sentimental at the time.
Parce que c'était lui, parce que c'était moi. He can visualize the words in Reginald's spiky italic writing, on the flyleaf of the copy of Ioläus he'd given Charles, that first year in Oxford. He'd made a joke of it, saying “I know I've read you most of this by now, but you really ought to have your own copy.”
The book sits over there on the library shelf; he can see it out of the corner of his eye, looking so innocuous in its drab cloth binding. Charles tries not to think about the centuries of love and desire between men that lie packed between its covers. But the hum of all those voices is loud in his ears, as loud as the blood that pounds in his veins when he looks at Erik.
Erik, who sits there, cool and maddening, smiling, plotting Charles's next defeat, unflappable, inexorable. Seeing every weakness Charles tries to hide; except this one, apparently.
He's not sure if Erik likes girls. Or men. Or anyone. He imagines there's no room for anything in Erik's mind except the hunt for Shaw. But even if Erik was interested in that sort of thing, it wouldn't be with someone he thinks of as naïve and arrogant, spoiled and soft, an adorable lab rat. He doesn't take Charles seriously enough to want him.
Maybe you're wrong. You could read his mind, find out what he really thinks of you.
He pushes the temptation away. It's not that much of one, actually. He's pretty sure he knows what he would find, and he's had enough humiliation for one night.
He concentrates on the game, as fiercely as he knows how, and slowly he begins to push back, not just holding his defences but starting to breach Erik's.
“Hmm,” Erik says approvingly. “That's more like it. I was starting to think you were letting me win.”
“I would never insult you by doing that,” Charles says.
“I know,” Erik says, sounding surprised. “I was joking.”
“It's much more fun when you put up a fight,” Erik says.
Charles has a sudden mental image of their chess games translated into physical combat, the two of them grappling furiously, naked and oiled like wrestlers in ancient Greece. Where the hell did that come from? He can feel himself starting to blush, imagining Erik's reaction if he could read Charles's mind right now.
Though Erik is the one who keeps coming out with these remarks.
“Chess was a metaphor for sex, in the Renaissance,” Charles says experimentally.
“You do surprise me,” Erik says, grinning. “Judging by the last few games, I'd have to be on top.”
OK, that? That was not even an innuendo. That was a blatantly sexual remark by Erik Lehnsherr to Charles Xavier, which Charles absolutely did not imagine in any way, shape or form.
But it was a joke. Obviously. So Charles ignores it in favour of taking Erik's queen.
“Damn,” Erik says, laughing. “Keep playing like that and I might have to reconsider my position.”
“Shut up,” Charles says, scarlet with embarrassment.
Erik is actually doing it on purpose. Trying to put Charles off his game. Charles really doesn't want to think about why he's chosen this method, of all others.
At least he'd never mocked Reginald for wanting him. He knows he hurt Reginald sometimes, saying stupid things; knows it was hard for Reginald watching him pursuing girls he didn't even care about. But they'd managed to stay friends somehow all those years, and he'd always treated Reginald with kindness.
Erik isn't – kind. Would not be kind. Charles has never known him to show mercy to anyone.
Why did he think this would be any different?
It's part of what draws him to Erik, after all. That hardness, the sense of uncompromising force. For all Erik's elegance and sophistication, underneath he is what life and Shaw have made of him: a weapon in human form.
Charles wonders unhappily what he's done, falling in love with a weapon.
Because that is what's happened to him, isn't it?
He stares at the chessboard but his mind is full of that Britten song Reginald loved, and Kathleen Ferrier's voice, singing I little thought what love can do...
A ship there is, and she sails the sea
She's loaded deep as deep can be
But not so deep as the love I'm in
I know not if I sink or swim.
What love can do... He'd had no idea, though he'd seen it happen to others, and wondered at their folly. And now the man whose cry pulled him into the ocean sits there looking lazily amused at his plight, and he's not sure he can bear it.
He makes a move, not really thinking about the game any more, and Erik says “Charles, what are you doing?”
“You put me off,” Charles says, knowing he sounds petulant and childish. He's shrivelling inside with shame, and he looks away again, unwilling to see the contempt in Erik's eyes.
“What is it you keep looking at over there?” Erik asks.
“Nothing,” Charles says, too quickly.
He looks back at the board. Yes, that really was an exceptionally stupid move. It's left him wide open to Erik's attack and he's not even going to think about how grotesquely appropriate that is.
“Charles,” Erik says warningly, getting up and going over to the bookcase. “Don't try to lie to me, because you know I'll find you out.”
Oh, no. That's all he needs to make his humiliation complete. He makes his mind as blank as he can, nothing to see, nothing at all.
Erik's expression says I don't believe you. He turns his back on Charles and scans the shelves, then begins running his fingers slowly along the spines of the books, first one shelf, then another. Charles can't help imagining those fingers moving down his own spine, caressing him, and he shivers, feeling the tautening of desire.
Erik twists around and looks at him as if he can see right through him, as if all Charles's secrets are laid out for him to handle and possess.
“It was somewhere here, I think,” he says, turning back to the books. He's very close to it now, and Charles is finding it hard to breathe. Erik starts taking the books out and looking at them, then putting them back on the shelf. Three books away. Two books away. One –
Charles catches his breath and Erik says “Ah.” He takes down the book and comes over to Charles.
“This one?” he says, holding it out.
Charles nods; he's not sure he can speak right now. Erik opens the book and looks at the inscription.
“Montaigne,” he says thoughtfully. “Parce que c'était lui, parce que c'était moi. That's – unexpected. To CX from RB. Who's RB?”
“Someone I knew in Oxford,” Charles says. “A friend.”
“A friend?” Erik says, leafing through the book. “Or a lover?”
“No,” Charles says, flushing.
“Why not?” Erik says.
Why not? Charles's head is spinning.
“He – would have liked to be,” he says, “but I didn't want him like that.”
There's a silence that feels as if it's going on for ever.
“Have you ever wanted a man like that?” Erik asks. Neutrally, but Charles senses the neutrality is an effort.
Charles's throat is dry and his heart is racing. “Yes,” he says.
“What happened?” Erik asks.
Oh god. “Nothing,” Charles says. He can see Erik's going to say Why not? again, so he says “I was afraid.”
I still am, he thinks. Afraid of what it means to feel this way. Afraid of what happens if you say no. Maybe even more afraid of what happens if you say yes.
“A man can live too much in books,” Erik says, putting Ioläus back on the shelf. He gives Charles a long intense look that almost takes his breath away. “If you want something to happen, you have to take action. The world's about to end, or hadn't you heard?”
Charles feels dizzy. This can't really be happening the way he thinks it is. He must be hallucinating because he wants it so much.
Erik stands in front of him, hands outstretched.
“Time to stop being afraid, Charles,” he says.
The chessboard goes flying as Charles launches himself into Erik's arms.
Erik kisses the way he plays chess, ruthlessly focused, as if nothing else exists. Breaking down Charles's last remaining defences till there's nothing left.
Charles kisses as if Erik's the only thing keeping him from drowning. He presses and twists his body against Erik's, telling him wordlessly how much he wants this, wants him.
There's a click as the key turns in the lock of the library door and Charles has a sudden vision of all the doors in the house locking at once. He's not sure if it's really happening, not even sure if it's his vision or Erik's. It doesn't seem to matter.
If this is just a very intense, very good dream, Charles hopes he never wakes up.
Erik has a little nick right at the point of his jaw. Must have cut himself shaving. Charles couldn't have dreamt that, could he? It seems to him suddenly, gloriously funny that Erik, who can command metal, should have that trivial mishap just like anyone else, and he snorts with laughter.
“If you've just been playing with me –” Erik sounds furious and baffled. He tries to pull away from Charles's embrace.
“No!” Charles says, gripping tighter. He touches the point of his tongue to the cut. This, he tells Erik silently. Just this. He licks and sucks at Erik's skin, kisses him lingeringly behind the ear, making Erik growl with pleasure. Charles wants to make him make that noise again. A lot.
Erik pulls at Charles's clothes, swearing under his breath in German at the buttons. His hands move lower, and there's a flash of stupid fucking leather belt, going to buy him one with a metal tip. Charles almost can't stand up straight at the mixture of lust and possessiveness and intent coming off Erik in waves. The belt finally yields and the metal fastenings undo of their own accord. There's another surge from Erik that feels like Mine, so strong it takes Charles's breath away, and then Erik's hand pushes into his undershorts and grasps his cock.
Charles arches up into Erik's touch, crying out at the shock of pleasure that slams through him. Erik's fingers feel impossibly good wrapped around his cock, as good as Charles imagined, better, and oh god the things they're doing to him – Charles' legs are giving way, his vision blurring as Erik bites at his neck and his shoulder and he moans, his mind a whirl of too much, too good, please don't stop.
Erik doesn't stop.
Charles can hear a voice he realizes with shock must be his own, babbling “god Erik, please, yes – that, like that – I can't – I, oh, yes – oh god, ErikErik–” He hears Erik's response, not sure if it's out loud or in his head, yes, mine, come, come now, want you to, fuck, Charles, so beautiful, now, now.
He's coming, and the force of it hurls him against Erik, leaving him barely able to stand, shaken and spent. Erik kisses him again, a kiss so nakedly triumphant Charles feels like laughing for sheer joy. He clings to Erik, panting and helpless as the aftershocks of pleasure go through him.
Erik kisses his way down Charles's chest and stomach; he sinks to his knees and Charles groans as he realizes what Erik has in mind. Nobody's ever done this to him before, and it's almost too much to bear: the sight of Erik licking him clean, the caress of Erik's tongue on his shivery oversensitive flesh. He pushes his hands into Erik's hair, not sure whether he's trying to pull him closer or hold him at a distance.
“Ahh,” Erik says. He looks up, and the expression in his eyes makes Charles catch his breath.
“Too much?” Erik asks.
Charles nods. He doesn't think he can speak.
“OK,” Erik says. He raises and twists his body so he's sitting in the armchair, and pulls Charles down into his lap. He strokes Charles's hair and his face and his neck, kisses the top of Charles's head and mutters something into his hair that sounds suspiciously like Mein Schatz. Charles leans against him, making soft incoherent noises. He'd like to stay like this for ever, he thinks.
“It's a pity the world's about to end,” Erik says, after a while. His voice is dark with arousal and Charles can feel the pressure of his erection. “I have such plans for you, Charles Xavier.”
Tell me, Charles says in his mind, still too shaken to say it out loud. Show me.
Erik's embrace tightens around him, and he sees his own image repeated over and over. Head tipped back as his orgasm approaches, panting with incredulous joy, his legs over Erik's shoulders as Erik thrusts into him again and again. Bracing himself against the tiled wall of the shower as Erik kneels and sucks him off, swallows him down and then gets to his feet to kiss him, saying See how good you taste? It's no wonder I can't get enough of you. Bound and spreadeagled, his cock hard and heavy as Erik teases him for what feels like hours, till he begs shamelessly finish me, please Erik, I can't bear it, want you so much, please let me come. Writhing face down on the bed, whimpering with pleasure, his fists twisting in the sheets as Erik holds him open and helpless and fucks him with his tongue.
“Yes,” Charles says, gasping. “Yes, all of that. Please, Erik, yes.”
“That's just the start of it, really,” Erik says, in the voice of someone saying Oh, it was nothing.
“Oh God,” Charles says. “Why didn't you tell me?”
“Why didn't I tell you?” Erik says, incredulous. “Charles, I thought you liked girls. And only girls.”
“I didn't think you liked anybody,” Charles says. He starts to laugh.
“It's not funny,” Erik says, but he's laughing as well.
“Don't you have something we ought to take care of?” Charles asks, wriggling deliberately against him.
“Not for much longer if you go on doing that,” Erik says. He groans. “Stop it – Charles, no, I can't –”
“I want to make you come,” Charles says. He turns around so he's sitting astride Erik's thighs and rocks against him.
“Not going to come in my pants like a fucking schoolboy,” Erik insists. His hands are bruisingly hard on Charles's hips, holding him still.
“OK, sorry,” Charles says. “Oh god, why are you wearing so many clothes still? Here, let me, no, wait–”
He shifts again, trying to get the right angle so he can reach Erik's belt buckle and zip.
“Lie down with me,” Erik says urgently.
Charles narrowly avoids cracking his head on the coffee-table but finally they're on the hearthrug and this is better, this is much better. Iron and velvet, he thinks, feeling the heaviness of Erik's cock in his hand at last. It's a cliché but it's true. God, you're beautiful.
He brushes his thumb across the wet tip of Erik's cock and Erik gasps. Charles tightens his fingers around Erik's shaft, thinking Show me how you like it, teach me, I want to do it right, want this to be so good for you. He lets Erik's mind guide his hand, hard and fast, should have known you'd like it like that, so impatient, my love, and Erik thrusts up into his fist again and again, shouts and tenses all over and comes so hard Charles can feel it in his teeth and his bones.
Erik's pleasure surges through his mind, wave after wave of it, till he groans, feeling himself stirring again in sympathy. He holds Erik and kisses him, murmuring nonsensical endearments Erik will probably tease him about later, too happy to care if he's making a fool of himself.
I seem to have found my vocation, and it's not what I thought it was at all.
Erik must have heard that, because he laughs.
“Do you mind if I spend the rest of my life doing this?” Charles asks.
Erik shakes his head. He looks so full of joy, so undefended for once that Charles can hardly bear it.
“I love you,” Charles blurts out. He wants to kick himself the moment he's said it, because it's too much, too soon.
“It's not too soon at all,” Erik says, as if he's heard Charles's thoughts again. “It's now or never, Charles; your timing is perfect for once.”
Charles can't ask, but he doesn't need to.
“Yes,” Erik says. “Whatever happens, yes. I love you.”
Charles's heart feels as if it might burst with joy. He presses a kiss to one corner of Erik's mouth, then the other, and runs his tongue along Erik's bottom lip. Erik nips at Charles's tongue and catches it between his lips, sucking him in, and Charles moans, feeling his cock harden at the promise of Erik's mouth.
“No-one else has ever made you feel like this, have they?” Erik says.
“No,” Charles says.
“Good,” Erik says fiercely.
Charles thinks of Reginald, knowing he's too far away to reach with his mind. He sends him a message anyway: a mixture of thank you and I'm sorry I didn't understand and I hope you find him, the one you're looking for, your other half. He's still too blissful to feel guilty about owing his happiness to Reginald's gift.
“We never finished the game,” he says, looking at the chessmen lying scattered on the floor.
“Didn't we?” Erik says. “I thought we had.” He starts laughing again.
“I'll get my revenge tomorrow night,” Charles threatens.
“Of course you will,” Erik says, with a wicked look. He brushes his fingers lightly against Charles's erection and Charles groans.
“It'll be an interesting experiment,” Erik says. “Seeing whether having sex improves your game.”
“I don't know how we're going to measure it,” Charles says. He's getting dizzy again.
“The pursuit of knowledge demands precision and thoroughness,” Erik says, caressing him insistently. “And repetition. Isn't that right, Professor?”
Repetition. The thing they can't be sure of. Charles pushes that thought away, because this is no time for fears about the future or regrets about the past. If these last few nights are all they have, he intends to make them count.
“Yes,” he says, pulling Erik close and kissing him again. Yes, my friend. Yes, my love. Yes.
Edward Carpenter's book Ioläus: An Anthology of Friendship is available online at the Edward Carpenter Archive.
John Addington Symonds: pioneering nineteenth-century writer on homosexuality, whose works included A Problem in Greek Ethics.
The image of the eight-limbed spherical hermaphrodite comes from Aristophanes' speech in Plato's Symposium. Chapter 2 of Ioläus quotes his remarks about the “other half”.
Walter Pater: Reginald reads from Pater's Conclusion to The Renaissance, a manifesto so controversial that Pater cut it from the second edition.
The anecdote about the double-decker bus (including the detail about the plainclothes policeman) comes from James Kirkup's autobiography, A Poet Could Not But Be Gay; I found it in Hugh David's social history of homosexuality in Britain, On Queer Street. Kirkup recalls “We had covered ourselves carefully with coats when the conductor came upstairs to take our fares, and tried to cover our passion with stony faces and nonchalant cigarettes.”
Maxwell Fyfe and Nott-Bower: Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, Home Secretary 1951-1954 and Sir John Nott-Bower, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police 1953-1958.
In Victim (dir. Basil Dearden, 1961), a sympathetic policeman quotes the view that the law governing homosexuality is “the blackmailer's charter”. A brief article about the film is here.
The Wolfenden Report (1954-1957) recommended that homosexual acts between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence. The recommendation did not pass into law until 1967.
Montaigne: Michel de Montaigne, sixteenth-century French essayist, appears in chapter 5 of Carpenter's Ioläus.
Kathleen Ferrier's recording of Benjamin Britten's setting of "O, Waly, Waly" is here
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