Erik was in the back room. Odd. There was almost nothing back there. The space had remained empty since they'd moved in, as they had yet to agree on what to do with it. All that was back there were some boxes of stuff they didn't want to deal with, and his old wheelchair, tucked into the closet as a backup.
Charles nudged Erik's mind, was surprised when he was gently but firmly rebuffed. Erik just about never closed his mind to him anymore. But Charles didn't have time to be hurt, because the sensation of a shutting door was followed by a burst of affection and the image of a blown kiss.
Charles smiled softly, but his curiosity remained piqued, and he wheeled himself to the back of the house, entering the spare room just as Erik emerged from the closet, tucking something into the front pocket of his jeans.
His pale eyes widened just a bit, and Charles felt his spike of alarm.
"What are you getting up to back here?" Charles kept his tone light despite insane curiosity and a teensy bit of suspicion.
"It's a surprise." Erik closed the distance between them and kissed him thoroughly.
Charles quickly became too distracted to care what Erik was up to.
Until the following morning. Erik had left for work, and Charles only had one class to teach and not until afternoon, so he went to investigate the back closet.
The contents were as he remembered, a dusty stack of boxes, neatly labeled and still sealed with tape, and his old wheelchair, a bit battered but still serviceable. He'd used it for six years before upgrading to the one he used now.
There was nothing here that explained Erik's behavior.
Charles started to back out of the closet, but a gleam of light reflecting off one wheel rim caught his eye, a break in the dark coating over the metal. Odd.
He moved forward for a closer look, finding a neat band of bare metal that hadn't been there before. He ran his fingers over it, feeling subtle seams, puzzled as to why Erik had been mucking with the metal of his old chair. It wasn't like the man didn't have dishes of paper clips and ball bearings in every room of the house.
Erik had said it was a surprise. Hopefully he wouldn't make Charles wait too long.
He didn't. Three days later, he surprised Charles with a candlelight dinner, then surprised him even further by getting down on one knee and offering a ring. "Marry me?"
Charles let Erik slide the ring onto his finger. "Does this have anything to do with what you were doing in the back room the other day?"
Erik blushed and nodded. "I wanted to make us rings."
"From my wheelchair?"
"Something of yours. Something of mine." Erik ran a fingertip over the metal band.
"It's exquisite." Two shades of metal in gently swirling waves.
"I wanted to see if I could mimic the look of damascened steel."
"I'd say you succeeded. But why my wheelchair?" Charles knew his tone was a little sharp, but he couldn't curb it.
"Not because it defines you. Never that." Erik traced one of the lines of lighter metal. "For me, paper clips, because you have my heart all twisted up, and ball bearings, because you keep my world turning smoothly. For you, the wheelchair, because, like you, it is form and function both, strong yet elegant."
Charles smiled softly. "Is there a type of metal that says 'romantic fool?'"
"Does that mean you're saying yes?"
"Of course I'm saying yes. Now get over here and kiss me."
Dinner grew cold and the candles guttered low long before they finally stopped kissing. Erik blew out the candles, then followed Charles to their bed.
They fed each other cold roast beef and warm champagne in bed at midnight. It was a perfect engagement dinner.