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Sinner Like Me

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He can’t remember how it came to this. One thing he knows for sure – one of the few undeniable truth he can still hold on to, these days – is that Erik is everything to him and he loves him more than he was ever able to love someone. Another slightly less reassuring and much more terrifying thing is that, when he wakes up every morning by his side, he’s not sure he feels the same warmness he felt years ago, and it’s a thought he just can’t bear. He is not some young man that lives dreaming with his eyes open anymore – he’s been there, he remembers their earlier, innocent years with a smile and fond memories, but he is a grown man now. Not a disillusioned one – he still has hope for the most little things – but he’s well aware that the passion of the youth cannot last forever, and that love eventually grows, leaves his roots, becomes something more steady, more powerful, a habit you cannot live without – but a habit nevertheless. And yet it’s not that, and he knows it. They – he and Erik – haven’t lost their passion, nor has their love become a dimmer, weaker light guiding their paths. No. He loves him, no less than he loved him the first moment their affection awakened, and he knows for sure that Erik loves him the way he loved him the first time, so many years ago, but there is something else. There is always something else, when it comes to this – there has to be, right? It can’t just be easy like that, it can’t just fade away, like it never really existed, like it was never as important as they thought it was. No. No. It’s more complicated than that, but he just can’t figure it out – he has no idea what happened or, god help him, how it happened. How it came to this – to Logan.

***

Logan’s lips press on Charles’, his hands rest on the other’s waist. It feels good, actually, for both of them, but it is not a pleasure Charles is proud of. He keeps his eyes open because he doesn’t want to sink and get lost – no, he mustn’t. This is wrong, he knows – he knows. Yet it’s good, so good he can’t find the energy to let go – and so he doesn’t. He shuts his eyes and raises a trembling hand, tightens his fingers around Logan’s shoulder. He won’t get lost. It’s just a kiss – god, a good kiss – and nobody will have to know this. He won’t sink. It’ all right, except it’s really not.

***

The first time he and Logan met almost went unnoticed to both, or this is what Charles often likes to tell himself, to feel reassured about the fact that there was no immediate passion, no real affection between them from the start, that everything that happened next was just a casual, unimportant mistake. 

The first time they met, it was a couple of months ago. Charles finally managed to convince Erik to throw a party for both humans and mutants at their mansion – one of the most fancy and luxurious buildings in all Genosha, as expected from the residence of the city’s founders. Through the years, it had become some sort of tradition to let their home host events like that. Everyone was invited, there was music, there was food, there was expensive champagne and just the most different kind of people, dressed in elegant suits or casual clothes – no one really cared, after all. Except for Erik – he did. Not for the clothes or the food or the wine, but for the company; it was not a secret for Charles: Erik didn’t like humans, and most of the times he didn’t enjoy being trapped in a crowd of loud, festive people. He was always there for him, though, sliding an arm around his when he saw him standing in a corner, his expression static from nervousness and his back rigid. He always smiled at him and told him to relax and enjoy the good time, and Erik usually muttered something in a low voice, looked at him and found the peace he was looking for.

The night he met Logan it was the same, except lately it had become more and more difficult to convince Erik to take part to anything even remotely mundane. Charles didn’t know why, but he guessed that it was part of the reason why things had started to feel different between them. Erik was not himself – rather, he was starting to look like the himself he ended up despising so much, the man he once was and that he was no more. He never talked much, but Charles always knew what his words were. Now, however, he felt only silence, cold, predatory and bitter silent, like an open wound he was so desperately trying to hide. “Let me know what it is that’s troubling you”, he asked Erik one day, looking considerably concerned, but the other just said, “There’s nothing troubling me, love, and there’s nothing for you to see.” Charles believed that those words had been said with good intentions, nevertheless he couldn’t help but think that they told absolutely no lie: there was nothing for him to see. That silence: he knew it, he had heard it, years ago. The sound of rage and hatred.

The party happened, after all, and the mansion was full of people, laughter and good music. Charles liked it, he felt grateful for it, even a bit relieved to have someone to cheer him up in a house that was becoming more and more wide, more and more voiceless, that was starting to make him feel lonely. He smiled and talked to almost anyone, drank a lot, ate every possible course of food and couldn’t stay put for more than a minute. Erik wasn’t there with him – probably talking to someone, or probably not, he would look for him later – when he heard Raven’s voice calling him from the crowd. He turned around – his head spinning a little – and her sister was there, waving a hand and smiling. They hugged and kissed on the cheek, held hands and talked for what could be a minute or an hour – Charles honestly couldn’t tell, but nor he cared, cause having the chance to talk to her sister was just what he needed at that moment. At one point Raven said, “Brother, there’s someone I want you to meet.” It was unexpected but Charles didn’t worry at all: she was smiling, after all, and he liked getting to know new people. Then Raven turned around, called for someone, and there was Logan. The man was tall, probably taller than Erik, and had a very curios hair cut. He totally looked like the suit he was wearing was not his territory at all – speaking of which, he had a very territorial look on him, the eyes of a wolf and the pretentious confidence of a predator. For a moment he reminded him of Erik, but he immediately realized the analogy wasn’t quite right. The man – Logan – lacked of the elegant, lethal composure that was so typical of his husband. They were like the opposite face of a same, primordial instinct.

Raven introduced them, they shook hands – Logan’s grip was strong and firm, as expected –, Charles smiled politely and said something witty and unimportant. Logan didn’t talk much, and despite the grin on his face he looked like he wanted to be anywhere but there. Raven said he was a friend but she gave no specific about how they met or who, in fact, this Logan was. Not that it was important. Raven always met people and brought them to their parties, and as much as Charles could be fascinated by this mysterious, captivating man – or creature, Charles found himself thinking at one point – he had other thoughts filling his mind, more urgent and grave.

Erik, of course, was top of the list. He found an excuse to walk away from Logan and his sister and went to look for his husband. He found him talking – or, rather, passively listening – to a man he had never seen before – a mutant. He didn’t want to interrupt, even though, when he silently smiled at Erik, he knew the look he got in return was one of a man who’s begging for someone to make him disappear.

***

Erik is usually silent and discrete when they make love, Logan is not. Not that they’re actually making love – it’s just a kiss just a goddamn kiss it’s nothing – but Charles can’t help the comparison, and he immediately regrets thinking about Erik while kissing another man. Logan opens his mouth on his and lets out a low groan, then goes back to kissing him like he wants to devour him. Charles doesn’t want to stop, but he starts to feel tears pushing behind his eyelids. He’s not entirely sure they’re from the sense of guilt, though, and when Logan puts both his hands on his face and forces him to incline in head so that he can kiss his neck, it does not seem that important anymore.

***

Life went on, after that party, and apparently it went on without Logan. Raven came back to their house several times, but never made mention of the man again, nor did Charles bother to ask about him. Erik was on his mind, constantly, even when he shouldn’t have been. Charles struggled to keep his worries to a tolerable level, but Erik wasn’t helping it. At first it was not easy to notice because he didn’t act any differently than how he had always done, both with Charles and around other people, but there was things, small things, tiny details, that Erik could not hide from him and that were starting to drive Charles crazy. The way his lips compressed when he was brought face to face with a human, the stiffness in his fingers when he caressed him and told him that there was nothing wrong, the fragile tremble in his smile, the little silly things he got mad for.

Charles wanted to talk about it with Raven, but before that he would have to fully immerge in the problem, to analyze his feelings and Erik’s probable reasons, and he was not ready to do that. He would have to connect with the core of his concern, with the core of Erik’s, and it was too much. He wanted to be happy – he just wanted their happiness back, like the good old days, like when hope and joy were their only purpose.

Then Logan came back into the equation. Raven was not there this time, but their second meeting didn’t leave a much more profound mark than the first one. They met casually in the huge park around the mansion. Logan was wearing jeans and a leather jacket rather than a fancy outfit, and Charles thought that they suited him better.

“Hey”, Logan said. He was smoking a cigar.

“Hello”, Charles smiled, faking a little surprise. “I was not expecting to meet you again.”

Logan didn’t say anything about that. He took a long drag from the cigar and then, “Victor is a friend of mine, thought I’d come to say hello. Hope it doesn’t upset you or Lehnsherr.”

Victor was one of Erik’s men, meaning he hanged out at the mansion more often that he stayed at his own house, probably. Charles didn’t care, though. There was plenty of space, and when Erik was talking business with the others, he could just lock himself in the library and lose track of time on his books.

“I’m sure it won’t. Do you know him from the army?”, he asked, giving a look at the dog tag that hanged on his chest.

“Sort of.”

“Do you want to come in?”, Charles offered.

“I’ll wait here.”

Logan, Charles noticed, was not grinning as he did at the party. “That’s fine”, he said, “I’ll tell Creed you were here.”

“Bub”, Logan interrupted, his voice lowering in what sounded like a growl. “I said it doesn’t matter, you don’t have to tell anything to anyone.”

Charles’ lips parted, but he almost immediately realized he had no words to respond with. He felt the sudden urge to access his mind and steal some of his thoughts – nothing deep, just scratching the most superficial ones – but, in the end, he didn’t. He put up a smile and said, “As you wish. It was good to see you again, Logan. I’ll just head back to the mansion now, goodbye”, and heard no reply when he turned around and started walking.

The third time they met was the day the kissed.

***

The days passed and nothing changed. The only times Erik would agree to meet humans was during Charles’ events, and even then he never really met anyone, he just stayed out of the crowd, only talked when questioned, only drank half a glass of wine when offered and barely touched any food. When there was no party at the mansion he just immersed completely in his work. He and Charles didn’t even talk about politics anymore. They didn’t talk about anything, actually, besides casual compliments on the evening’s meal and other unimportant things. Charles was so frustrated and mortified by his husband’s lack of motivation or warmness that many times he found himself ready to cry – but only when he was alone and safe in his room or in the library. Otherwise, he’d just put up a smile and acted like everything was fine – like Erik was fine, like he was fine, which he obviously wasn’t. The only times all his worries and concerns were wiped away were when Erik made love to him, late at night or in the early morning. Sex was all right, there was nothing strange or distant about it, it was just like they were finally Erik and Charles again. Sometimes he’d let a tear stream down his cheek while feeling Erik inside him, and Erik would worry and ask him if he was hurting him, but he would just shake his head and give him a little smile and tell him he was just happy and that was all. After their love was consumed they slept and the hours passed, and Charles realized that, in the end, it all went back to being messed up and depressing.

So, in the end, Charles felt like throwing a party once a week just to distract himself from it all. Erik didn’t seem to care anymore, he let him do whatever he wanted and invite whoever he desired, but Charles knew that that behavior didn’t come from generosity or love – rather, it was Erik’s way let him know that he didn’t care and that he couldn’t bother to confront him on the matter. It hurt. Sometimes Charles felt like a spoiled child, but most times he just felt a bitter anger consume his chest. In the end, he decided to play Erik’s game – to not mind, to just do what he wanted without caring of the other’s opinion. He organized the event, he invited people, he hired a huge orchestra and ordered tons of food. It was going to be the most bloody magnificent party anyone had ever been to.

Logan was there. Charles had almost forgot about him – probably he wouldn’t have if the situation between him and Erik had been different – but was not surprised when he saw him standing in the crowd, a glass of wine awkwardly hold in his grasp, confused eyes that wandered through the room and the same elegant suit he wore the first time they met. Charles approached him without a second thought and, when he laid a hand on his arm, Logan almost jumped. Charles tried to hold a laugh, Logan looked grumpy.

“Hello again”, said Charles.

“Man, I miss my cigar and my shitty apartment.”

“You know, no one’s forcing you”, he said, without malice. “Or are they? Is Raven asking you to come? Is she bothering you?”

“Who?”

“Raven”, Charles raised an eyebrow. “My sister. She introduced us, I thought you were friends.”

“Oh, yeah. Lovely kid”, Logan stared for a moment, then, “You take it, bub. It ain’t for me”, and handed him his glass.

“You don’t like it? I can ask for something else”, he took the glass from his hands.

“No, thanks”, he looked away as he was looking for someone. Charles followed his gaze but couldn’t catch the potential object of his floating attention. “Anyway”, Logan continued, turning back to look at him, “got problems with Lehnsherr?”

Charles blinked. “Beg your pardon?”, he asked before he realized it, squeezing inadvertently his fingers around the glass.

“Victor said you’re always together, like you never came out of your honeymoon. Doesn’t seem much like that to me”, Logan shrugged casually.

A pause, then, “Are you stalking us?”

“I was just bored. You haven’t talked to each other all night.”

“I kind of noticed that, thank you”, he said. He realized his smiled was gone but he didn’t care much.

“Problems, then.”

“Is that a question?”

“Dunno. Depends on the answer, but I’m pretty sure I’m right.”

“Well, then. The answer’s not any of your business, Mister – what’s the name again?”

Logan raised an eyebrow. Charles saw a hint of something deep, something feral in his eyes, and for a moment he was scared. For a moment he felt like everyone around them disappeared. He felt like the man was ready to jump on him and slice his throat with his teeth. For a moment Logan was a beast, and he was a helpless lamb waiting to be ripped apart and devoured.

A moment later, though, everything was back to normal, and Logan was laughing.

“You have guts, Xavier, I’ll admit that. I might even like you.”

“How lucky I am”, he said without a smile.

“You bet. Wanna get away from here?”

“To where?”, he asked. Surprisingly – but not so much, everything given – the answer in his head was just an honest, natural yes.

“Wherever you want”, Logan shrugged, “show me around the house. I fucking hate parties.”

***

He would be lying saying that he has never been kissed this way before – brutal and furious, a tongue almost down his throat, teeth clenching, hands all over his face and hair, a man’s waist pressed over his own, whole body on fire. Between Erik and him, Charles is most certainly not the cautious one in bed. He’s the one who makes all the noises, the one who begs shamelessly for more, the one who wants to get rough – but this, god, this is good. He loves it and he hates it. And he can’t stop thinking that this is – good god – this is just a bloody kiss and god help him if they get carried away.

He’s pretty sure Logan made the first move, but by now he does not really care anymore. His back hits a wall, or more probably one of the library cases. He lets out a moan and clearly Logan appreciates it, since he groans back and bites his lips, rocking his hips against him, forcing a knee between his thighs.

How long have they been kissing like their lives depend on it?

Charles arches his back and pushes Logan away – or at least he tries. Instead of freeing himself, he feels the man’s lips curving on his own in what he believes is an amused grin, and then Logan’s hands twitch, grasping both his wrists and pinning them against the books with a slam. “Ngh –“, Charles closes his teeth on Logan’s smile, breaking the kiss with an aching sound. “Fuck, that hurt, will you slow down?”

“’kay”, Logan smiles at him, and Charles can’t help staring at his tongue sliding out, licking the red mark he left on his lips. “But I’m not letting go of your hands.”

“Actually, I was thinking this may not be the great idea I thought it was.”

“Were you, now?”, Logan mocks. “I have news for you, kid”, he pushes a knee between his legs and goddamnit it fucking hurts and it sends a shiver up his spine and it makes his head spin and it’s fucking lovely. “Your body is begging to be shagged.” Charles bites back a moan and lets his forehead fall on Logan’s shoulder.

Fuck.

“Should I?”

“No – ah – no, stop it –“

Logan tilts his head and grins. “Not very convincing.”

Charles bites his lips. “Please, Logan” – the man’s grin widens in delight – “don’t make me control your mind.”

And Logan suddenly stops. “Can you do that?”

“What – of course I can. I’m a telepath.”

“Since when?”

“Since forever. Everyone knows it.”

“Everyone thinks you are Lehnsherr’s little human toy, kid.”

Charles rolls his eyes. “That’s the official version. I’m a mutant, just like you and Erik, and I’m no one’s little toy.”

“Arguable.”

Charles decides to ignore him. Instead he continues, “We decided to keep my mutation secret so that people could feel safer knowing that Genosha was built by a human and a mutant, together. So they could even believe that love is possible, between our species. I don’t like hiding my true nature, and neither does Erik, but it’s for the best. I’m the bridge between Genosha and the rest of the world. By the way”, he pauses, “every mutant knows it.”

“I’m not ‘every mutant’, kid.”

“Stop calling me that.”

“It’s what you are. And this”, Logan’s lips curve in a dangerous smile, “you being a psychic, brings things on a whole new level.”

“What do you –“, words get lost and swallowed in a rough, dirty kiss, and Charles never gets the answer to a question he soon forgets.

“Logan –“, Charles starts to struggle, however, at one point. It’s not like he doesn’t like the idea of having someone constraining him – he begged Erik to tie him several times, during sex – but Logan is a total stranger, and as much as it’d be totally hypocritical to insist that he doesn’t like this at all, he also believe that there’s a time and a place for everything, and it’s definitely not now, not here. Logan stops for a moment from sucking his neck; Charles continues, “Let my hands go.”

“Only if you ask nicely.”

“This is not a joke.”

“I know”, Logan mumbles with a smile.

“I’m going to shut your mind if you don’t let me go. Right. Now.

Logan bares his teeth and stares at him with the glare of a wild beast. Charles can read his thoughts – so feral, so fiercely free of every effort of control – and what he sees is fear respect anger excitement. But Logan lets go, eventually, curving his lips in another arrogant grin. “Fucking mind tricks”, he mutters.

“Thanks”, Charles says in a low, grave murmur. Then poses his hands on Logan’s waist. “Did you like it?” He can tell, really – Logan is losing control. He’s hungry, and he doesn’t seem exactly the sort of man who would worry about restraining certain instincts. Charles might need more of his power to keep him at bay.

“You do this with Lehnsherr a lot?”, Logan licks his lips.

“Don’t say his name.”

“Feeling guilty, kid? A bit late for that.”

“Just don’t say his name and we’ll be fine.”

“Would you say it if I fucked you right now, on that desk? Would you think about him instead of me?”, the man leans and brushes his lips on Charles’ mouth.

Charles doesn’t find anything funny about this. He doesn’t move, he doesn’t return the kiss. “I don’t think you are fucking anyone in the near future.”

“Thought so”, Logan doesn’t seem to care. “It’s a pity.”

“Not really.”

“Can I still kiss you?”

Charles pulls him back and kisses him – anything to avoid further, meaningless chatter. Anything to close his eyes, open his mouth and pretend that nothing’s happening, that the darkness before his eyes is the only reality he has to believe in, that he’s not gone too far yet, that he can still come back, make this stop, apologize. Be forgiven.

He’s so angry. Why – god, why can’t he just stop? What’s this all about? Is this about him? Is this about Erik? He doesn’t know who he’s trying to punish, anymore, but burning lips are sucking his tongue, strong hands are touching his body and – what can he do? Must he stop, if he likes it so? Is it wrong? Is it right to feel bad? Whose mistake is this? His? Erik’s? God make this stop make me disappear Erik oh god ohgod

 

“Charles?”

Everything stops.

A click, a light crawling in the darkness of the room from the corridor, an opened door. A voice. His voice.

Everything stops, and then everything falls apart.

He pushes Logan away and hears him complaining while he stumbles on the carpet – he doesn’t care. His eyes drift at the door and – oh god – he is there, he’s looking, he’s seen, he’s –

“Charles?”, Erik asks again. He sounded worried, before, but now his voice is just flat, nothing’s in it, not anger nor jealousy. Just silence. A void, distant, cold silence.

“Erik – I – this is –“

Logan finds his balance again. “Lehnsherr.”

“Shut your mouth, animal, or I’ll kill you without a hint of remorse.”

Charles knows what’s happening the moment he sees the nervous tilting in Erik’s fingers. He tries to yelp but his voice is stuck in his throat, and the next thing he sees is Erik raising his arm and Logan flying across the room and slamming against a wall with an aching growl.

“Erik –“, Charles tries, but –

“You stay silent as well, Charles.”

“I won’t.”

Erik turns and stares. Charles is not scared. He raises his chin and grits his teeth. He’s not scared – he’ll never be scared of his husband. “Let him go.”

“Are you kidding?”, Erik snarls, his voice sharp and lethal. He closes his fingers in a tight fist, twisting his hands without stopping looking at Charles – nor does Charles look any other way. He hears, though – furious growls as Logan is raised from the floor where he was lying and kept levitating in midair, forced to spread his arms like a beast that’s ready to be crucified.

“God – Erik, please, this is about you and me. Don’t –“

“Kill him?”, Erik asks, calm and immovable. “Hurt him? You still believe I’m a monster, after all.”

“I don’t, I never believed that and you know.”

“Do you think that if I let him go, he won’t try to kill me?”

A pause.

“Maybe. But I have control over his mind”, god, he’s not even sure it’s true. “I can stop him.”

“Ah, right”, Erik lets out a flat laugh. “You have great control over him, I saw that.”

“Erik, please, not here”, he’s begging.

“And where else, Charles? This is my home. This”, he steps forward, and Charles can see a grimace of pure ferocity disfigure his face, “has happened in my home. You – and this animal. Did you think I wouldn’t notice that you were gone? I thought I would find you here. But not like this. Hell, not like this.”

Charles is not sure if it’s his anger speaking, or just utter, heavy disappointment, but Erik’s voice is – god – is it cracking? Charles wants to cry. It’s all his fault, damn, he’s done it all wrong. He brought back a part of Erik that they both fought so hard to suppress. He’s – a disappointment, exactly. “Erik, I’m sorry”, he shakes his head – what else can he do?

Erik doesn’t listen, doesn’t look at him – his eyes are on Logan. “Howlett.”

“Lehnsherr”, the man growls, showing his teeth.

“I should kill you right now.”

“Erik –“

“Yeah, why don’t you try that, bub?”

Erik tightens his fist and Logan lets out an obscene scream of agony.

“Erik, please, please”, Charles begs, and Erik turns his way.

“Were you going to fuck him?”

“No –“

“Go on”, Erik snaps, his breath fastening and coming out of his mouth as the pant of a rabid beast. “He’s all yours, open and vulnerable. Don’t you want to touch him? Don’t you want to make those noises again?”

Charles shakes his head. His voice is gone, his breath is no more.

Erik doesn’t seem to care.

“Fuck him, Charles”, he growls. “Are you shy, now? I can strip him for you without lifting a finger, if you want. Do you want him naked?”

“Erik – stop.”

“Do you want to fuck this man?”

“I don’t.”

“Do you want him to fuck you?”

“No”, he’s on the verge of tears.

Erik pauses. Silence falls, interrupted only by the angry and agonizing sounds Logan’s making behind them. In the end, Erik lets go – he lowers his arm and loosens the grip, and Logan falls on the ground without a word, his body heavily crashing on the floor.

“God –“

“He’s not dead”, Erik says, and then, looking at Charles, “Don’t you dare getting near him. I’ll have my men take him out of this house. You’d better get back downstairs, the people you invited are beginning to wonder where you are”, his voice, distant again, is void an apathetic. When Erik turns his back on him and gets out without a sound, Charles fights with all he has to bring his own voice out, call him, reach him and talk to him – to say sorry, to explain, to ask for forgiveness, to beg him to not let himself get caught by his demons because of him.

He doesn’t. He falls to the floor the moment Erik’s steps turn to silence, and he doesn’t spare a look for Logan – not even when, seconds later, he manages to get on his feet again and drags himself downstairs, with the most unbearable pain in his chest and a distant smile to curve his aching lips.

***

The party seems to last forever. People never leave, the music never stops, his glass of wine is never empty and Erik is nowhere to be found. Eventually, however, the mansion turns dark and silent again, and Charles can finally deal with what he’s done.

He knows Erik’s in their room, he feels him, he can sense his mind, even though he doesn’t dare reaching it. At the end of the evening he’s exhausted. He considers sleeping on a couch in his study, but he quickly puts the thought aside: he wants – needs – to confront Erik.

He feels a little dizziness caused by all the alcohol he drank before and after Logan, and maybe – he thinks – it is better to meet Erik while being slightly drunk, so it will be less scary and more honest and – god, he’s just so selfish for thinking something like that. He silently laughs at himself while climbing the stairs. He fucked up and that’s it, he deserves to feel like shit, he deserves to tremble in fear for not being sure if Erik will still want him or not. The way to their room is eternal, but he doesn’t attempt to convey a single thought – he would instantly burst into tears and be devoured by his own guilt. He disconnects from his own mind – blank, void, he doesn’t let himself feel or see anything, not until that door will open, not until Erik will look at him, not until his voice will drag every drop of despair and regret and shame out of him.

He knocks, realizing he’s never done that before. No answer comes from inside the room.

“Erik?”, he calls, with a voice so small and reluctant he is not even sure if he heard it himself. No answer again. “I’m – coming in. Let me know if you don’t want me to.” Nothing. He pushes the door and gets in –

– Erik is staring at him.

He stands beside the bed, static and silent as a beautifully carved statue. Charles can read no emotions on his face or in his eyes and, again, he doesn’t want to connect with his mind – it wouldn’t be fair. He has to figure it all out by himself, he owes him that.

He swallows. He’s scared. Not of Erik – never – but of himself, of what he’s done, of what terrible consequences he brought upon himself. “Erik”, his voice trembles; he feels tears in his eyes.

“Close the door, please.”

Charles nods and obeys, before taking a few cautious steps into the room.

“I can’t believe you did that”, he hears Erik say, and he has to tighten his lips and choke back a sob to not let tears stream down his face.

“I’m so sorry”, he whispers, somehow managing to keep his voice stable.

“Are you?”

“I – don’t know what happened. Please, believe me. I was not myself.” The most terrifying thought, however, crosses his mind leaving a throbbing trail below his temple: has he not been himself at all?

“Did he force you?”

Did he? Would it be wise to lie, at a moment like this?

Charles parts his lips, pauses, then, “… No.” He hears the uncomfortable sound of Erik nervously swallowing.

“Is there a good reason for what happened, Charles?”, the tiniest trace of disillusioned hope in Erik’s voice. Charles shakes his head, weakly, and he sees Erik losing a breath. Then, his voice again, broken, “You’re my husband.”

“I know. I know, Erik, I know, it was a mistake, I – didn’t know – what you –“, Erik shakes his head and looks away. Charles decides this is the right moment to take another couple of steps towards him – and he’s at the other side of the bed now, staring at him, begging him with his eyes alone. “I tried to get close to you, I tried – god knows I did, I asked you so many times, but you just wouldn’t listen to me, you always said that you were alright when clearly you were not. I love you, Erik”, he sees him clenching his finger in a tight, white fist, and his lips clutch in a grimace of pain and anger – he doesn’t stop, though. “I love you – you know I do. But I don’t know where you are anymore, darling, I don’t know if you still see me, if you still care, if – you still want – me.”

There’s silence. Long, unbearable, torturing silence, a pain he’ll silently endure.

In the end, Erik raises his head and speaks, “How in the world did you think that fucking another man would solve things between us?”

“I – didn’t think it would solve anything. It just happened” – Erik lets out a sharp, angry laughter – “I was upset. I couldn’t reach you, not even with my power, Erik – you were so distant I had no idea what was going on in your head. It scared me. It scared the hell out of me. You’re my husband and I don’t know what’s happening to you.”

“Don’t blame it on me”, Erik snaps, low and bitter.

“I’m not”, there’s no hesitation in Charles’ voice. “I fucked up. I’m sorry.”

“Why didn’t you tell me all of this before deciding to look for an alternative solution that didn’t include me?”, Erik’s voice sounds confused – Charles knows he’s angry and disappointed, he can feel it so clearly it almost makes his skin crawl – but the way he talks, the way he frowns in fluster, the way he looks at him as if expecting him to reveal it was all a big, shitty joke and that nothing of what he saw was actually true – it all makes Charles want to punch himself or vomit or cry.

“I –“, what’s he supposed to say, now? He shakes his head, as if trying to find the right words – the problem is, he’s not really sure what he wants to say. Logan was a good kiss, he was a distraction and nothing more – should he be this honest? “– don’t know. He got me unprepared, and my affliction did the rest, I guess.”

A long pause. Erik looks away and, when he turns his head back at Charles, he’s never stopped staring at him and hoping he would say something – anything. Anything but silence.

“Charles?”

“Yes?”

“Don’t ever do that again.”

Charles nods. “I’m so sorry.”

“Come here”, Erik stretches his arm, inviting him. Charles can’t help a reassured, shy smile and an energetic nod – then he hurries to Erik, takes his hands, lets his husband drag him close to him and takes the kiss he offers. It’s sweet – nothing like Logan – and it’s exactly the taste he loves. It’s Erik. “You’re mine and I am yours. You forgot it”, Erik says, breathing steadily on his mouth.

“I haven’t”, Charles looks for a kiss, but Erik withdraws his head, denying him the contact he craves.

“Strip”, he says, looking straight in his eyes.

“What?”, Charles breaths heavily – he’s not sure he –

“Take off your clothes. I want to make love to you.”

“Erik”, he calls him, cautiously grasping his hands on the fabric of his white shirt, right below the chest. “Are you sure?” Any other time he would have had no doubt giving in on Erik’s request, but this, right now – it just feels wrong. Erik doesn’t move, though.

“Are you sure? You don’t want to sleep with me?”, he asks.

“I just want to make sure you’re – we’re alright”, such stupid words, he hates himself for them. How can they be alright? How can he, for even a moment, believe that Erik really wants to fuck him out of love, tonight? He shuts his own mind. He doesn’t think anymore, doesn’t feel anymore – and it seems the only right decision to make, to find distance from this, to let Erik have what he wants without breaking him. He parts his lips and leans towards Erik’s mouth. “But you’re right, I am yours. If you want it, I want it”, he murmurs, hot and red on his lips.

Erik raises a hand and rests it on his face. “Take off your clothes, then”, there’s no passion in his voice.

But Charles has locked his own mind somewhere else – somewhere safe. He can’t see, he can’t let himself feel what Erik is trying to push on him – anger, shame, guilt. He just nods, and then his hands are working the buttons of his suit and shirt, letting them slide on the floor, and finally unbuckling the belt around his waist and releasing the zip of his pants.

“I want you naked too, love”, he whispers in Erik’s ear, and feels him shiver a little, deliciously.

“Don’t worry about me”, he says, pushing him with his back on the mattress and then leaning on him. They kiss, but Erik pulls away after just a moment. “Undo my belt”, he says, and Charles does. He doesn’t let his hands tremble nor his mind falter – rather he closes his eyes, arches his back and throws his head back against the bed, welcoming Erik’s mouth on his the neck with a silent moan. When he’s done unbuttoning him, Erik grabs his wrists, pinning them on the mattress. Charles opens his eyes again, his safe mind cage starting to fall apart slowly and inevitably when he sees his husband’s lips – parted, his breath slightly panting, his chest trembling under the shirt. His gaze full of anger, confusion and arousal.

“Erik”, he lifts a hand and rests it on the other’s cheek, softly caressing him. “I’m sorry I did this to you.”

“I know”, Erik hisses. “But I don’t know if I want to forgive you.”

Charles’ hand on his face freezes. Erik’s words get confused and blurry under the intolerable noise of his mind barrier shattering and collapsing, piece after piece, like a fortress under siege. His head is spinning and he feels like losing conscience – this is the exact moment his mind actually takes account of the possibility of Erik leaving him – of their love going to waste.

“I’ll – do whatever you want me to do, to make things right again.”

“Then kiss me”, and Erik is already on him, lips pressed on his mouth, elbows pressed on the mattress on both sides of his head , long fingers running through his hair. “Kiss me”, he repeats, starting to rock his whole body against Charles’ stomach and open thighs.

Erik is so silent and composed it makes it all the easier for Charles to let out soft moans and beg for more when he sucks on his chest or pushes his waist on his erection. It’s so sweet and familiar it reminds him of every other time they made love, and Charles manages to forget all the rest and just sinks in Erik’s arms, in the corrupt lust that’s consuming him. If this is the last time their bodies will be entwined and connected –if this is the last time they make love – he wants to at least enjoy this – god – false intimacy born from shame, regret and hatred.

He hears distant noises but doesn’t bother to open his eyes, he doesn’t need to. And when Erik pushes a lubricated finger inside him, he decides not to hold his voice or the desperate quiver that runs across his body. He calls his name and throws his arms around Erik’s shoulder, arching towards him, spreading out his legs and moaning to his ear, whispering that he is Erik’s and Erik’s alone and that he will never be anyone else’s.

Erik pushes and rocks his fingers back and forth without making a single sound. He stops moving, however, at one point, gaining a frustrated groan from Charles’ lips. “Lay down”, he says, his voice hoarse revealing a hint of arousal. “Lay down, don’t hold me”, he repeats.

Charles hesitates, and in the sudden silence and immobility he feels both their chest shaking in the desperate attempt to catch more air. In the end he lets go, falling back on the mattress and looking up at his husband.

“You can touch me”, he hears him say, “but stay down.”

Charles has no choice but nod silently, and Erik kisses him again, gently. He’d want to laugh and cry all the same – Erik is giving him kisses every time he does something he says, making him feel as if he was nothing more than a well-trained, compliant and docile dog. But it’s for the best – he thinks – bear the humiliation and he will go back to loving you, to knowing that you love him more than anything else. A little price for his mistakes, after all.

Erik starts moving his fingers again, and Charles hasn’t forgotten what he said – you can touch me. He’ll be the obedient lover Erik wants him to be – so he stretches an arm as far as he can, lifts a hesitant hand on Erik’s waist, lets it rest there for a moment, and then slides it inside his pants. When his fingers close around Erik’s half-erected cock, Charles can hear only the slightest sound come out of his mouth. “Move”, Erik mutters without watching him, and Charles starts moving as he leans on him to hold his body in his arm – Charles feels the sudden urge to return the embrace but he doesn’t dare, fearing he might disappoint the other again. He closes his eyes instead, and lifts his chin next to Erik’s ear.

“Erik”, he calls – he’s always loved that –, “get inside me – ah – please, come inside –“

Erik groans, pushing his forehead against his shoulder, fiercely, and shutting him up by forcing another finger in his entrance.

“Erik –“, he repeats, not sure if to beg him to stop or to give him more. “– Please –“

Erik pushes again, then opens his mouth, “Please what?”

Please stop

Please let me go

Please

Talk to me

“Come inside – Erik”, he cries. And maybe his thoughts were loud enough for Erik to hear them, maybe they were not thoughts at all – but Erik, suddenly, stops.

There’s nothing gentle about his gesture when he pulls out his fingers and steals a shocked, choking moan from Charles. He opens his eyes wide and feels Erik’s hands on his own, grabbing his wrists carelessly and dragging them out of his pant. “No”, he growls.

“What?”, Charles asks, startled, out of breath.

Erik shakes his head and stands up, forcing Charles to stand on his elbows to be able to look at him.

“What?”, he says again.

“Sorry, Charles”, Erik seems unable to look at him, wandering across the room in long, frantic strides. Then, at one point, he stops. And stares. “I don’t want to come in your hand or inside you, tonight. This was a mistake”, he says, then turns and hurries to the door. He stops when his fingers are already pushing on the handle. Charles is staring at his husband’s back, frozen, scared, but no word escapes his mouth. “I –“, Erik pauses – and maybe it is an illusion, a merciless projection of his already scattered and broken mind – or maybe it is not – but he’s sure, for a moment, that he sees Erik’s shoulders tremble, like he didn’t really want to go, like he was struggling against the instinct of letting go of the handle and going back to Charles – to forgive him – to let him know they can work it out, to –

“Good night”, he says, instead, before opening the door and letting it close behind his back with a thunderous sound.

Silence falls, and everything, suddenly feels like endless, freezing darkness.

Chapter Text

The school’s corridors are loud and crowded with kids of all shapes, species, colors and skin patterns. They walk around chatting and laughing, some of them are flying around or levitating, and Charles can’t help a tiny smile when he sees Professor Kitty Pryde grab the foot of a green, bat-winged kid and forces him back down at floor level, before scolding him because “You know the rules, Codie, no flying in the corridors, I’m sure you’ll be able to walk like everybody else.” 

A group of little girls in uniform passes by, and when they look at him he smiles and they smile back, waving hands and wishing him a good a day. All the kids know him and, of course, he knows all of them – his students, the very future of Genosha and of the world itself, children that one day will be good, fair and compassionate adults, believing in the importance of respect and cohabitation. They have always been a reason of pride and joy for him and, despite everything that happened, truths like these never change. The Institute brings his name, after all, and one thing he is sure of is that, even when it feels like he doesn’t have a place to call home anymore, this school will always feel like home to him.  

He waits for the school bell to ring and for the last students to hurry to their classes before the courses begin – some of them look a little intimidated when they realize the headmaster himself is looking at them being late, and they salute with a shy and apologetic look, but Charles just smiles without a word, brushing their minds superficially with a hint of reassurance it’s ok no one’s getting grounded today but remember to be punctual next time.  

In the blink of an eye everything is silent again. Not the kind of silence that Erik forced on him this past few days – and months, before that – but still a muteness that makes him shiver and grasp nervously the fabric inside his pockets, where his hands are clenched in trembling fists. He suddenly feels the urge to open his mind to everyone in the building, to reach out to every teacher and student, to listen to their inner voices, to feel them, to link to their minds in the hope to feel less alone, less terrified, a little more at ease. He does not dare, though. He sighs, parts his lips and looks for air, breathing – in an out. It’s alright, he hears his mind mutter, and, “It’s alright”, he repeats, heading quietly towards his office.  

He doesn’t have to wait long before a familiar voice reaches him. Charles, Raven calls, unseen, tickling his mind – I’m here.  

Please come, he mutters without moving his lips. I’m in my office, you remember where it is, right? 

Of course. I’m coming

Charles can't resist the temptation to keep a connection with her mind, weak, almost invisible, impossible for Raven to notice. Not that it would be a major issue, anyway; he’s sure his sister would have been more than happy to welcome him to her own mind, had he asked – and he’s not intruding, so everything is fine. He just needs to feel some company, that’s all – that’s how desperate I am, he thinks, letting out a dejected sigh. In the end he knows exactly when she’s going to open the door, and she does it so graciously there’s hardly any sound following her entrance. “Here you are”, she smiles with both her lips and eyes, leaning in and looking for him as if they had been playing hide and seek the whole morning.  

Charles smiles in return, but not as passionately and gently as she does – something that miraculously goes unnoticed, since Raven doesn’t look particularly worried as she silently closes the door behind her back and heads to him, widening her arms and capturing him in a squeezing hug. Charles instantly freezes – and this time she must gave noticed because her arms tense for a moment around his shoulder – he feels his own heartbeat quickening and pushing against his chest, his hands trembling a little and, eventually, his lips inevitably curving in a reassured, thankful smile. “Good morning, Raven”, he says returning the embrace, and when she finally pulls back – hands still resting on Charles’ forearms – and looks at him with a slightly more troubled glare, he doesn’t have to panic anymore. He keeps his smile, takes one of her hands and leads her towards the couches in front of the fireplace.  

“Your office is gorgeous, Charles, it feels like a lifetime ago the last time I was here”, she says, an amazed look in her eyes, staring in every direction. 

“Because it is. You don’t come here often anymore”, he sits. 

“You never invite me here. Wait”, she narrows her eyes, “you haven’t called me here to try and convince me to take that job again, right?” 

Charles lets out a brief laugh, shaking his head. “No, relax, I’m not asking you to come work here.” 

Again.” 

“You would make a perfect professor, Raven.” 

“I hate children.” 

“Come, now, you’re always exaggerating. You would love it here.” 

“So you can always keep an eye on me? Looks great, brother, but not really my thing”, she relaxes her back against the couch and crosses her legs with a suspicious look. 

Charles’ lips curl in an invisible smile. He’s not even trying, and certainly he doesn’t intend to make her angry or uncomfortable. “Really”, he says, “this is not the reason why I called you.” 

“I hope so”, but she’s not smiling anymore. She pauses, then, “You never call me here, Charles, you’ve always invited me to the mansion. What’s the big occasion?” 

He would have laughed, any other day. They would have shared a knowing smile and then they’d have kept on talking about the most unimportant, frivolous matters like all brothers and sisters do. It’s just not the day, and Raven gets it almost immediately.  

“Charles.” 

There she is, starting to worry, and Charles’ sense of guilt growing miserable in his chest.  

“Please”, he curves his lips, but he somehow senses his smile becoming tinier and more hesitant every moment – he decides not to care: one concern at a time. “Don’t look at me like that”, he says, calmly. 

“Like – what?” 

“Like you’ve just seen a ghost, or a dead man.” 

“Then tell me what you wanted to tell me”, she snaps. “God, you’re making me worry, alright?” 

“Sorry, I know, I’m an awful brother.” 

“Just talk, Charles.” 

“I’m –“ 

“Oh god.” He doesn’t need to say anything at all, it seems – just the slightest hint of uncertainty and hesitation was more than enough for her to understand, to just know. She stands up, the most serious look on her face, and she only needs a couple of strides to find herself in front of him, hands or her waist and an inquisitive glance. “Don’t you dare. Spit it out right now, or I swear I’m gonna hurt you”, she frowns, looking down on him. Charles, however, is not sure which one, between honesty and necessity, would be the best pick right now. His silence lasts a few moments, enough for Raven’s expression to go from pout to collected impatience to concerned stare in the blink of an eye. “Something must have happened at home, right? Otherwise we’d be there now”, her voice has become gloomier, and hearing it somehow saddens Charles even more.  

He purses his lips, struggling to keep his feeble smile in place. “I –“, he stretches his arm and brushes Raven’s fingers with his own, before catching her hand, concentrating on that – the soft touch of her skin, the little tension in her muscles – instead of her eyes. “Yes, something happened, actually. But you don’t have to worry –“ 

“Of course I worry”, she interrupts, sounding offended, “what kind of cold-hearted bitch would I be if I didn’t care? What is it, Charles? What happened? Don’t tell me this is between you and Erik.” 

Charles understands her concern, really, and he knows he would have reacted the same way had their positions be inverted. He and Erik had lots of reasons to fight over the years, and every time it happened Raven was there, listening to his arguments, standing his eternal, petulant complaints, patiently talking to him, driving all his anger and tension somewhere else, in a void, safe place in his mind, in a neutral spot, no man’s land, where no other thought or bitter memory could come to bribe his slow recovery of good sense. He and Erik would argue, he would explode and Raven would bring him back to reason. That’s how it worked, and how it should have worked this time as well. Except: no explosion, no anger, no endless blathering – of course she is expecting the worse.  

Charles stays silent, tightening the grip on her hands. She gets it, no need for words. 

“Is this serious?”, she asks, more cautiously now. 

“It could be, yeah, but I’ll make this right.”  

She stares for a moment, worried, biting her lip. “You don’t want to talk about it, do you?” 

Charles smiles. What would he do without her? Where would he be now? “Not really, not right now.” 

He knows she’s not convinced, but she nods and doesn’t insist – they’re both aware it would be useless anyway. “Did you fight over something?” 

“I wish.” 

“This is really serious, then. Do you need a hug?” 

“No, thanks, but –“ 

Raven leans on him and throws her arms around his shoulders, holding tight and close. Charles feels like letting it go – letting it all come out, giving vent to his desperate need of crying, but in the end he doesn’t. He lifts his arms and returns the embrace, the only thing he seems able to do. “Sorry I worried you”, he whispers. 

“Don’t even try, I’ll punch you.” 

“Right, ok”, he finds the energy to laugh, somehow. “Now, Raven”, he pulls back, still keeping hands in hers, “I need to ask you something.” 

She looks confused for a moment. “What is it?” 

“Sit, please”, Charles pulls her hand gently and she follows his lead, sitting down on the armrest. “Some weeks ago you introduced a man to me, at one of our parties.” 

“Did I? That’s possible, I’m surprised you remember.” 

He forces a smile. “Logan”, he says, and sees her nod. 

“Oh, right. You didn’t talk much that night. Why are you asking about him?” 

“I met him afterwards, on one or two occasions, but never for long. I haven’t seen him recently and I need to have a few words with him.” 

Raven brushes her teeth on her lower lip, his eyes looking a bit absent and thoughtful for a moment. “You know, this is weird.” 

Charles shivers – he can’t help it, and can’t help but thinking have I made a mistake telling her – but it lasts just a moment. He lifts his chin to look at her, faking a slightly surprised look. “Mh? Why so?” Raven doesn’t seem to notice anything. 

“He mentioned me once or twice that he would have liked to meet you, that’s why I brought him to the party. But it’s not like we ever talked much, I can’t even really remember how we met.” 

“He said that?”, Charles asks, “he said he wanted to meet me?” 

“Yes. Never told me why, though.” 

Charles pauses for a moment to divert his gaze towards the logs piled up in the fireplace. Logan never told him his surname, but Erik seemed to know him – Howlett. He didn’t look surprised when he surprised them in the library. Angry, yes, outraged, of course, but shocked? Now that he thinks about it, he and Logan looked like two beasts ready to start a fight, like they had waited for it for so long.  

“Charles?”, Raven’s voice calls him back from his contemplations.  

“Sorry”, he says, looking back at her. “Do you have any idea where he lives?” 

Raven stares for a moment, but then she shakes her head. “I never asked.” 

Charles sighs. Apparently no one knows anything about this man, apart from Erik. Should he be scared? Or is he just turning paranoid over nothing? “So, you don’t really know where to find him?” 

“No idea, sorry. Why is this so essential, Charles? Shouldn’t you be worried about… something else?” 

Ah, this one hurts – Charles’ lips curl in a fragile smile – but isn’t she perfectly, absolutely, reasonably right? Aren’t there more urgent matters that need to be taken care of? His marriage, for example, or the fact that the man he loves and he swore to make happy has not been talking to him for days, and he didn’t do a bloody thing about it.  

Fuck. Charles Xavier, the greatest and most powerful mind in the whole world – as if. His head is a mess and his judgment is nothing to be jealous of. 

“This is… I know it doesn’t make sense, but this about what happened. I just need to talk to Logan and set some things right before I can work this out with Erik.” 

“Are you sure?”, she asks, not even trying to hide her concern.  

“I promise”, he leans and pulls her down, leaving a kiss on her forehead. She mutters something he doesn’t understand, and then pulls back. 

“The Freak.” 

“What?”, Charles looks at her, taken by surprise. 

“The Freak. I think it’s a – pub, or something like that. He mentioned it once or twice, I believe he’s a regular costumer. I have no idea where this place is, but you might start to look for him there.” 

Charles’ smile widens all of a sudden. He’s not sure why – cause, really, is there any reason to feel happy or reassured right know? – but it’s like a massive load has just been taken off his mind, allowing him to breathe again after so long. “Thanks”, he can’t help the instinct of kissing her again. 

She smiles and says, “Am I not the best sister in the whole universe?”, and they laugh together, and for a moment Charles allows himself to believe that everything is back to normal.  

*** 

It’s taken him a little effort, but in the end he’s found out that “The Freak” is actually short for “The Freak Show”, one of south-Genosha’s most famous pubs. Another thing he learned about the bar, during his thorough researches, is that it is clearly not the place where an average upper-class, wealthy, refined nob would find something to please him. There are, in fact, two things that apparently make “The Freak Show” such an interesting place: the delicious beer and the company of – well, what he believes are the so-called freaks. Mutants – lads and girls – with the most striking, charming and intriguing mutations, ready to please costumers of the most different tastes. He didn’t even know that places like these existed in the city he and Erik founded, but then again he wasn’t that surprised when he found out that people were not hesitant at all when talking about the pub. Mutual respect is one of Genosha’s essential rules, after all, so nobody really considered the hosts as freaks – it’s just a cool name, some said, irony, right? Out of this city they would probably be circus’ animals, but here, hey, that’s work, they chose it and that can’t be bad, right? Surely, Charles discovered, the Freaks offer a well-appreciated service to the community. Erik wouldn’t approve of it, probably, but he’s trying to keep his name as far from his mind as possible.  

Charles soon gets acquainted to the many marvels of “The Freak Show”. He’s been sitting at the same table for more than half an hour now, ordering the oh-so-famous beer everyone has been telling him about – he has to agree it is delicious, even if it’s not really his kind of drink. There was no trace of Logan when he came in, but now he’s been staring at him for the last twenty minutes, right after the man walked in, asked for a pint of beer, lit his cigar and approached a group of two men and a girl at the billiard table, up until now. Logan laughed, missed his shots, sent several balls into the pocket and sometimes even yelled at his – friends? Charles is not sure. Their little arguments never developed into anything aggressive, though, and nobody looks surprised by their behavior.  

In the end, Logan gets bored – or so Charles thinks, seeing him leaving his stick behind and shaking his head when the others beg him to stay and play a little longer. He doesn’t hear what he says in return, but next thing he knows is Logan’s sitting at his table, an amused grin on his face and a cigar in his mouth – the third since he walked in.  

“Xavier, what a surprise”, he says.  

“You don’t look surprised at all”, Charles objects, calmly. 

“I smelled you the moment I walked in. Your mind tricks might work on others, but if you don’t hide your smell, animals like me could sense you.” 

Charles’ lips curl in a thin smile. “That was exactly my intention. I hid most of my presence so that no one would pay much attention to me – you know, people might recognize me and wonder what Genosha’s founder’s doing in a place like this, and then they might talk and – well, goodbye reputation.” 

“Wow”, Logan sighs, “you didn’t talk this much last time. So, you let me smell you and find you, amazing, such a smart kid. Should I be flattered?”, he grins. 

Charles, however, is not smiling. “I came to talk to you.” 

“Funny”, Logan relaxes his back against the chair. “I was quite hoping you came because you missed me.” 

“I hate to disappoint you, Logan, but: no.” 

“What do you want, then?” 

“As I said, a few words with you.” 

“Sounds boring.” 

Charles pauses for a moment, the leans in, elbows on the table and fingers entwined. “I’m asking you, Logan: please. This is important to me.” 

Logan’s grin weakens a little, but it doesn’t disappear – no, Charles notices, it’s like it caught a glimpse of something else, of something more finely feral, something that’s worth silently, patiently preying on. He realizes he himself is the poor, helpless prey in this game – of course – and he decides to just play along, letting Logan think what he pleases until the end. There’s no surprise when the man licks his lower lip and speaks, “Say that again.” 

“What?”, Charles blinks, faking a surprised glance – but he knows what Logan wants better than the man himself.  

“Like you said it last time”, Logan’s voice lowers – so predictable. 

Charles sighs. “Please”, he mutters.  

And Logan’s whole damn face is smiling like a kid on his birthday. “I’m listening.” Bingo

“Thank you. First things first: how are you, Logan?” 

And it’s clearly a question he wasn’t expecting to hear, since he raises both his eyebrows, pulls his cigar out of lips and staring at him – confused? Offended? – for a couple of seconds. “Fine. Why?” 

“Last time I saw you, you weren’t doing great. I thought you were dead.” 

“Ah”, Logan laughs, shaking his head, “Lehnsherr is a fucking son of a bitch, with his goddamn metal manipulation, but he can try as many times as he wants, he’ll never have me”, he smirks, without hiding a hint of pride in his voice. “Not that I can say the same about you.” 

“About this, Logan –”, Charles pauses. 

“Yeah?” 

He sighs. “I can’t let this – thing, ruin my marriage.” 

“This thing? You mean our amazing, sweet, delicious kiss?”, the man grins, even though Charles doesn’t intend to smile at all. Logan doesn’t seem to care – instead, he speaks again, “You know, you can read minds, but sometimes yours is so loud that everybody else suddenly becomes a telepath. I felt your guilt, Charlie, but I also sensed your lust. You wouldn’t have stopped if Lehnsherr hadn’t interrupted.” 

It doesn’t hurt – Charles doesn’t let any of his words hurt him or touch him or shock him. He knew from the start what was in store for him, and he’ll let it roll right off his back like it’s nothing. “You’re an animal”, he hisses. 

Logan, however, looks pleased by the compliment. “We all are, at some point. I brought out the best of you.” 

“Both me and my husband would disagree on that.” 

Logan laughs. “How cute, you’re still calling him your husband.” 

“That’s what he is.” 

There’s a pause, there’s a moment of silence between them, a long, quite stare, but in the end Logan just looks away, grabbing the ashtray and leaving his cigar on the border, still unfinished. “I assume you really didn’t come back for me, after all. What do you want?”, he sounds slightly annoyed now. 

“I need answers to a question or two”, he replies calmly. 

“Just spit it out, then, I don’t have all day for you.” 

Charles nods without batting an eyelid. “There is one thing I’m curious about, regarding our first mee –“ 

Something brushes his shoulder. It’s not an intrusive touch – not at all – but surely it’s unexpected enough to make him flinch and open his eyes wide and stop talking. He’s not sure which is weirder, between the enthusiast smirk that appears on Logan face and the – what? hand? thing? – still caressing his way from his shoulder to his neck and – “Fuck –“, he struggles hard to control the urge to turn around and face anybody who’s doing this – thing. 

“Kurt!”, Logan’s beaming.  

“Hello, mein Schatz”, he hears a voice behind his back, young and fresh, exquisitely seductive – and then the same touch again, on his cheek this time. It’s definitely not a hand – no, something more – sharp? A knife, perhaps, or some kind of blade, but somehow smoother, brushing on his face, slowly, inviting. Logan grins, delighted, and Charles parts his lips, but he’s anticipated by the stranger behind him. “I see you already have company tonight.” 

“I’m afraid Chuck here is only a friend”, he shrugs. 

“And so am I, mein Freund”, the man’s – kid’s? – laughter is low and delicious, even with a blade pointed on the jugular like it’s the sexiest thing on earth.  

“You are indeed, Kurt, but he doesn’t fancy me as much as you do. Isn’t it right, Chuck?”, Logan looks at him, giggling. 

“You said it, not me”, Charles forces a smile and Logan raises an eyebrow, slightly surprised – delighted, even?  

Kurt, behind him, continues, “Do the two of you want something to drink? Or maybe you were looking for somewhere more… private?” 

“As much as I’d love that, I doubt Chuck would be happy about it.” 

The sharp edge of the whatever-it-is that’s brushing Charles’ cheek moves, as Kurt speaks again, “That’s a pity”, down on his chin and then across his neck, descending all the way through his chest, giving him a chance to look down and – 

– a tail? A blue, spiked, sharp tail wandering across his torso.  

“I think you are scaring my friend, Kurt”, Logan grins and – yes, indeed, Charles has been staring for a moment or two, but out of pure curiosity and awe, not certainly fear.  

He hears Kurt chuckle and pull his tail away, gently, leaving a last caress on his face. “I am so sorry”, he says, taking a step ahead.  

“Don’t be, Logan is exaggerating as always”, he looks up and gives the stranger a gentle smile. Kurt’s presence, at Charles delighted amazement, lives up to every exquisite expectation produced by his voice and intriguing manners. He must be a young man indeed, although his curious appearance makes it hard to tell for sure. His blue body is perfectly shaped, lean but deliciously defined by fine lines of muscles. He has the thinnest waist Charles has ever witnessed on a man, long, elegant legs and arms, a pair of blue pointy ears and the delicate face of an elf, with beautiful eyes of pure gold. His skin, covered in short, blue fur, looks as smooth as if it were made of velvet, and his body is only half covered in a quite revealing costume, a night-blue tunic with a wide neckline that leaves very little to imagination, both about his torso and his legs.  Hardly a demon, as Charles is sadly sure everyone would consider him out of this city. 

Kurt tilts his head with curiosity. “Do I know you from somewhere?”, he asks.  

Charles smiles, looking a bit surprised, then replies, “I’m new to this place, if this is what you’re wondering.” 

“Yeah”, Logan intervenes, “I brought him here, the guy needs to have some fun. Wanna find out what Kurt has to offer?”, he looks at him. 

“Thanks, I’m sure it would be lovely, but I’m married”, Charles replies calmly. 

Logan lets out a brief laugh, in which Charles is sure to recognize a hint of mockery. 

“Be careful, Liebe, Logan is a dangerous man. Es ist ein Wolf, and he has the soul of a hunter”, Kurts says, almost amused. 

“I’ll keep that in mind”, Charles replies, but keeps silent when Kurt heads to Logan, leans on him and kisses his mouth, long and passionate. He stays silent when one of Logan’s hands grasps the young man’s butt, soon letting his fingers slide beneath the thin fabric of his dress. Kurt lets out a delighted moan before pulling away, leaving another last kiss on Logan’s cheeks.  

“Let me know you if you change your mind”, he smiles, looking at Charles now, “I’d love to have you both in my room.”  

Charles raises an eyebrow, and he’s sure any other time he would have found something witty or funny to say, alas it’s just not the right day for a mood like that. Never mind – he watches Kurt walk away, quite absent-mindedly.  

“Hey”, Logan interrupts, at one point – Charles blinks and turns his head to him. “Don’t stare too much, bub.” 

“Oh? Do I sense a hint of jealousy there?”, and what a pleasant surprise, Logan is – frowning? Charles can’t suppress a delighted smile, after all. “Really, Logan?” 

“Are you laughing at me, Chuck?” 

Charles is, to be completely honest. Logan just went from arrogant piece of shit to flushing in embarrassment in the blink of an eye and it’s easily one of the most amusing things Charles have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. Of course he’s smiling. “Have you ever told him?”, he asks – he just can’t help it. 

“I’ve got nothing to tell, now shut up. Weren’t you trying to say something a moment ago?”, and he looks away, slightly annoyed.  

“You mean before Kurt interrupted?”, Charles is still smiling, teasing.  

Logan sighs. “Whatever”, he grunts. 

“You know, I like you better when you’re like this.” 

“And I like you better when you shut up and use your damn mouth for something more useful.” 

“Oh, now you’re just being rude.” 

“Surprise, surprise”, Logan grumbles, voice flat, eyes rolling, “that’s what I fucking am.” 

Charles lets out a silent laugh – one that, apparently, takes Logan by surprise, judging by the way he looks up at him, lips slightly parted and eyebrows raised like he’s never heard the sound that Charles’ voice makes when he’s smiling. Charles says nothing, he just stores the unexpected reaction in his mind, along with Logan’s little crush and his adorable blushing. “Anyway, thanks for not using my real name. I’d hate to use my powers to make him forget me and what happened.” 

“You can do that?”, Logan asks, raising his cigar to his mouth again.  

“Yeah. But I’ve only tried it a few times.” 

“Mh”, smoke comes out from the man’s nostrils. He looks absorbed for a moment or two, but then, “You should use it on Lehnsherr.”  

Charles blinks rapidly, quite taken aback – by what?, his mind suggests, incredulous, and, “What?”, his voice soon follows, way more bitter. 

“Make him forget and go back to being a happy couple again”, he shrugs, like it’s nothing. 

“I don’t do that. Ever.” 

“Why not?”, Logan asks, while casually taking a long drag from the cigar.  

“That’s my rule, and a rule every mutant in Genosha agreed to follow.” 

Logan pauses for a moment. “You might need to enlighten me, I’m not very good with rules.” 

Charles sighs. “We don’t use our mutation if it’s not necessary, or if doing it means violating other people’s privacy or freedom. So, no: I don’t read or manipulate people’s mind without their consent unless it’s a matter of life and death.” 

Logan, apparently, finds it quite funny, the way he smiles, almost laughing at him. “What do you even use your powers for, then?” 

Charles’ lips curl in discomfort. Is this man mocking him? The way he chose to live his life, despite all the difficulties? The dreams he and Erik fought so hard to turn into reality?  He parts his lips and – stops. Just stops – for a moment. And breathes. His heart is suddenly pounding, pushing against his chest like it’s desperately trying to break free and he’s – sweating? The tip of his fingers is tingling, he finds himself swallowing deeply. Don’t let words hurt you, his mind speaks again. And he knows – dammit, he knows – but there’s just something about this man that can make him feel so uncomfortable and so out of place and god – “I assume you use yours quite often, Logan.” Hardly as calm and composed as he’d planned.  

The man laughs. “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I quite never get other people’s consent when I use my mutation.” 

Charles presses his lips together. He feels the sudden urge to stand up and walk out of this place, run home, hide somewhere, maybe his library – no, not the library, not there – never again. “And what would that be?”, he manages to ask. 

Logan’s lips curve in a grin – god – the same he’s made back when – “I can show you.” 

“Or you can just tell me.” 

“Or you can read my mind”, he responds, looking so obviously entertained. 

“Did you even listen to me?”, Charles asks, patience rapidly wearing off.  

“I’m giving you permission.” 

“I don’t want to get into your mind, Logan.” 

“Afraid you might like what you’ll see?” 

He feels out of breath all of a sudden. And it’s not like the answer is yes – is it? – but this – all of this – quickly starts to look unbelievably crazy and unreasonable. What is he doing here? What was he hoping to find in a place like this? Why – why Logan? Why him, again? He can’t even remember what he wanted to ask him, why did it feel like a great idea to look for him after – after the – Fuck”, he shakes his head. Logan stares, but he doesn’t really care. “Sorry”, he stands up, looks away, head spinning a little. “This was a terrible idea. I’m – I think I’m leaving.” 

And that’s precisely what he does: he leaves. 

Or he tries to, because – 

“Stop.” 

Fingers wrap around his wrist, gripping firmly. He stops. “Leave me”, Charles hisses. 

“I will. I don’t know why you’re so fucking upset all of a sudden, but if you want to go: fine. Just know we’ll meet again.” No trace of mockery or arrogance this time, surprisingly. 

“I doubt that.” 

“We’ll see.” 

“Let me go.” 

And so Logan does. He’s never felt so desperate to run away from somewhere or – god help him – someone. He misses home. He misses everything his life was before Logan. 

*** 

Being home, in the end, feels hardly as reassuring as he thought it would. 

It started raining halfway from the Freak Show to the mansion, with what he perceived as such a harsh irreverence that he was unsure whether to start laughing or crying. He chose for neither, in the end. His walk back home has been silent and void, free of meaningless or pointless thoughts and meditations. 

The mansion’s hall, as he comes through the door, is quiet and empty. A sigh escapes his lips, echoing across the room – he almost expects a reaction, for a moment, but there’s no sound or voice to welcome him home. “I’m home”, he mutters all the same, a forced, cracking smile between his cheeks.  

He looks down on the floor to see small drops of rain falling down from his hair and clothes, and he suddenly feels a shiver running across his spine. He’s wet and freezing, after all, no wonder his whole body is shaking uncontrollably, and yet he can’t bring himself to bother. Any other day he would be looking for Erik – no, his mind immediately corrects him, any other day Erik would be looking for him, waiting at the door, asking him where he’d been, taking him into his arms and forcing him to the bathroom for a hot shower. Any other day, Erik would be wondering why his husband has been absent from home for so long, and Charles would be smiling in reassurance and telling him that he had a long and tiring day at the Institute, and he would probably complain about the other’s excess of concern, but deep down he’d feel loved and thankful.  

He wants that. He needs to know that there’s still hope to have it all back, that Erik will not hate him forever or – god – that this silence won’t ever turn to cold, miserable indifference. 

His husband’s disappointment is something he can endure, but the idea of Erik’s apathy towards him scares him more than anything else.  

He finds himself climbing the stairs, hands tightly gripped on the handrail and eyes staring into nothing, until he’s reached the corridor on the first floor – empty as the hall, and dark as well.  

“Erik?”, he hears his voice call, weak and cracking, before he can even realize it, and he swallows hard at the silence that comes back in response.  

He lets his eyes wander in the dark and his fingers slide away from the handrail to touch the wall’s surface, letting it guide him through the corridor even though he knows he could probably walk around the house with his eyes closed. Yet, it gives him a sense of safety being aware of having something concrete under his fingertips, being able to feel the solid touch of reality without having to witness it – it’s like falling asleep without losing consciousness, like wishing to disappear without having to let go of – what, exactly?  

The door to Erik’s study slides under his fingers, and he stops. He realizes only now that he’s had his eyes closed the whole time – and yet here he is, standing in front of the only threshold, beside the library’s, that he never dared to cross in the past few days. 

He stands there for a few moments, or maybe an hour; he’s not sure. It feels long enough to make him wonder if he’s waited at Erik’s door for the whole night and yet, when he opens his eyes, he gets the impression he’s only been there the time of a blink of an eye. His lips part, but he soon realizes he’s out of voice and breath; no sound escapes him mouth, preventing any hopeless miracle from happening. He lets out a silent laugh – or a sob, it sure sounds like one. A pathetic, lonely, pointless sob – who’s going to hear him, anyway? Who’s going to come and comfort him? Who’s going to tell him there nothing to be desperate for?  

Not Erik, definitely.  

“Nor anyone else”, he mutters.  

Sadly enough, he knows his husband is behind that door; he feels him, along with minds belonging to other people. Feeling his own fingers still holding on the door, he wonders why the idea of knocking and entering into the studio, asking for his husbands attention, demanding it in front of his men – why, why does it feel like such a wrong decision to make? Why does his mind make it sound so unreasonable and silly? 

He finds himself not bothering at all.  

He finds himself pulling his fingers away from the door, taking a deep breath and then clenching his hand in a tight, obstinate fist. He knocks without regretting it, without waiting for an answer, and before any of the people in the room could even think about making a sound, he pushes the handle. And he’s in.  

Erik – the first person he looks for, and the first to raise his eyes and look at him – is standing behind his desk, one hand in the pocket of his trousers and the other rested on the table’s border, his back mildly arched as if he’d been just interrupted while leaning on some document he was trying to read. The men in the room turn to Charles, one by one, and he recognizes all of them. Victor Creed raises his eyebrows, gives him a suspicious look, and then looks back at Erik. The others don’t seem inclined to interrupt the sudden silence that submerged the room. Jason Wyngarde slowly joins his hands behind his back, looking slightly amused by Charles’ presence, and Fred Dukes just stares at him with his usual, blank, vaguely stupid glare. The nervous flinch in Mortimer Toynbee’s expression doesn’t go unnoticed, but Charles cannot bring himself to pay much attention to it or to anyone else’s reaction. His eyes stay on Erik the whole time, the same as he doesn’t stop staring at him for a moment.  

“Charles”, he says, in the end – a word Charles himself could have sworn he would never hear again from his husband’s mouth. “Is something wrong?”, he asks, after a moment of silence. There’s no real concern in his voice.  

Charles’ lips part without making a sound, and he can feel everyone’s tense look gathered on him. He couldn’t care less. 

“Alright”, he sees Erik closing his eyes in a patient sigh. “Everyone, we’re done for today. I’ll call you when I need your presence.” 

All the four men bend their gaze on Erik, looking slightly taken aback, and Charles just knows he’s interrupted some quite important discussion. Since no one seems to make a move, Erik raises one hand and gestures towards the door. “This means you can all go home.” 

There’s a glimpse of hesitation in each of the men’s eyes, but in the end they all nod and walk to the door without making a sound. Charles takes a step aside and let them walk out of the room, forcing himself to dismiss them with a nod and a weak smile. Creed is the last to get out, giving him half a grin and a derisive wink. Charles guesses it’s because of the fact that he’s wet from head to toe, but he doesn’t really want to know. He closes the door when everyone is gone, then turns his eyes on Erik. “I’m sorry, I interrupted your meeting”, he says. 

“Have you lost your good manners along with your good sense? You could have knocked.” 

It’s a strange feeling, finding himself with his breath trapped in his throat, heart pounding ferociously against his chest and every muscle of his body tensed up, as if to compensate for the sudden lack of oxygen to his brain – as if to force him on his feet even when all he wants to do is let go, slide down on the floor, maybe fall asleep, forget about everything. 

Disappear. 

“I’m sorry”, he repeats. He’d want to reach out and touch Erik’s mind but he’s afraid of what he might – or might not – find there. He takes a step further in the room, instead. “I needed to see you.” 

Erik stays silent for a moment, staring, and then, “Here I am”, he says, eyes reflecting Charles’ gaze. There’s nothing to cling on to in his voice – flat, absolutely static, same as his silent look. 

Charles finds himself nodding – to what, exactly, he doesn’t know – and closing in with another step. “Can we talk?”, he asks before stopping again. 

“Aren’t we talking already?” 

“You know what I mean, Erik.” 

He can see Erik’s lips pursing in the slightest, as his own name echoes in the room. Despite the brief physical reaction, however, there is no sign of verbal response. “I’m not asking you to forgive me, just to talk. We’ll have to do this sooner or later – Erik, this is us we’re talking about. Our marriage. I’m willing to do anything to make things right, but please I can’t do it alone.” 

Erik’s lips part, for just one moment that does not goes unnoticed. “It’s not easy, Charles”, his voice is so feeble it’s almost inaudible. 

“I know”, another step, “let us try.” 

A pause, then Erik talks again. 

“Where have you been?” 

“At the school”, lies and lies to add up in his meticulous – or rather not – conglomerate of infidelity. Pathetic, but necessary by all means. 

“You’re sopping wet.” 

A weak smile crops out between Charles’ cheeks, but somehow he fails at saying anything in return. He doesn’t really need to, anyway, when Erik steps away from his desk closing the distance. He stops, however, not more than a couple of steps away from him – purposely, Charles imagines with a bitter smile he keeps for himself. 

“Come”, Erik lends a hand, and Charles gets closer, entwining fingers with his husband’s. It comes so natural that for a moment he forgets they haven’t been talking for the last few days. “There is one thing I wanted to tell you, actually.” 

Charles raises his head to meet his eyes, not daring to take his hand away from Erik’s. “What is it?” He can't help but blink his eyes in surprise.  

For a moment Erik pauses in silence, and Charles is terrified he might have reconsidered after all – and No, his mind begs, loud and pleading but not bold enough to touch Erik's, to brush his thoughts with his own desperate need to know what's going on in his husband's head – why the silence, why all these endless pauses, why the distance? How could they end up here, in a moment like this, when they had the whole world to their feet? 

But then, with a slight sigh caught between tight lips, Erik speaks again. 

"I have not been entirely honest with you." 

I know, Charles finds himself thinking immediately, but then again he's not put himself in the position to blame other's lack of sincerity lately, so he just keeps silent and waits. 

"You've seen my men are here often," Erik continues, somehow cautious, feeding him a piece of information at a time – and of course Charles notices, but he knows he's got to be careful too, cause his position is way too fragile now. 

At first he decides to only nod, but then it just comes natural for him to speak his mind – as he always does. "Often is quite the euphemism. I think you've seen more of them than of me, these last few months." He almost bites his tongue when Erik raises his eyebrows to give him a pondering look, but he knows he's got no intention of taking back his words. There's a reason why they had to come to this, after all, and Charles has no intention of taking all the blame on himself. He's definitely not the only one who should be looking for forgiveness right now. 

"They're here because the situation requires it," Erik explains. 

"What situation?"  

"It's nothing serious, just new faces creating a bit of trouble. It was to be expected at some point, and I'm taking care of it." 

This time it's Charles' turn to frown. He lets his own hand slip from Erik's and stares at him for a long, dubious moment. He can't quite grasp what he's talking about – new faces? Trouble? Why is he even being so cryptic? If only he could reach for his thoughts and grasp the truth behind his words, something more concrete – something that looks a little less like convenient excuses and a little more like honest truth. Or maybe he could just ask: are you lying to me?, but that would sound pretty much like a bitter joke, coming out of his mouth, and he's well aware of this as well. 

And yet, he needs to know. 

"What trouble, Erik? What does this mean?" 

Erik does not hesitate. 

"As I told you, there are people who came to Genosha recently and we're not sure what their intentions towards the city are. We're keeping a close eye on them, don't worry." 

"I do worry. It's also my city we're talking about, I want to know if something's going on." 

Erik closes his eyes for a moment and sighs. Charles keeps his lips tight. He doesn't like this – as if he's being treated as an inconveniently curios kid. 

"Nothing's going on," Erik reassures him – not yet, Charles can't help but think. "Listen, we agreed when we founded this place that you would take on diplomacy and political matters, and I would think about security. This is what I'm doing, Charles. You need to trust me." 

Trust. It's such a simple word and yet it hits him with the bitter irony of a misplaced joke – like the weight he's been trying to lift from his stomach for the past few days, evidently without any significant result. He's aware he must be looking like a beaten pup right now, since Erik lets out a small sigh and closes his eyes for a moment, patiently – and somehow seeing him like this reassures Charles more than any word could do, cause that's exactly the expression he gives him any time he's done something wrong and Erik's trying his hardest to not forgive him. Yet. 

Eventually he gives in, as always – except Charles is slightly more surprised this time. 

"I will let you know if anything serious happens, Charles," he says, voice smoother, and Charles feels a shiver up his spine – finally, his mind suggests and, are you back to me?, he can't help but wonder. He gives him a little smile, trying to conceal the joy that's starting to eat his stomach. 

"Thank you," he whispers. 

"I've been distant lately," Erik continues, eyes locked into Charles' – and Charles doesn't dare look away. "I shouldn't have. Work has kept me away more than I realized, until..." 

Erik stops, but Charles knows exactly what words are trapped in his throat – he's had them stuck in every thought, memory and perception since then – since Logan. It hurts realizing that, most probably, Erik's been thinking and seeing all that – them – for the past few days. 

“That night…” Charles starts, his voice feeble and trembling, but somehow resolved to finally explore a forbidden territory they've been ignoring for too long – Erik, however, shakes his head almost immediately, causing him to stop with parted lips and a worried look. 

And surprisingly, when he finally speaks, he does so with a softer voice – a voice Charles would have sworn he'd never hear again. “What I did to you was not right. I’m sorry, I was not myself, I shouldn’t have treated you like that.” 

Charles stares, mind blank for a moment. He can't quite believe his ears - and maybe that's why his body moves faster than his mind can react, leaning towards Erik as if it was his center of gravity – as it was the origin of everything. Perhaps it is, Charles can't help but wonder as his hand looks frantically for Erik's arm, finding it, holding on it as if his very life depends on it. 

“Erik, no,” he shakes his head, and he's not exactly sure why, but at least he does know the words he just heard him say sound so terribly wrong that he feels the urge to bury himself under his own sense of guilt just so he can pretend they were never spoken. Erik doesn't push his arm away, doesn't look anywhere else beside the big blue eyes that are staring at him, worried, flooding with remorse. 

“I was – I am angry," he says, almost gritting his teeth. "Even if you say you love me, how can I know? How can I be sure?” 

Charles feels his chest tighten and for a moment he fears his heart might end up burning, and god he can almost hear the deafening sound it would make while breaking and shattering into a million pieces. He wonders if Erik would realize, then, how much it breaks him just to hear what his husband silently kept inside himself all this time, but that would be the easy way, and Charles is not sure he has any right of wishing something like that right now.  

He goes for words instead – words and honesty. Well, most of it. 

“I can’t doubt my feelings for you, Erik. Everything we did, we did together – we are bonded for life. I was stupid, I know, but please don’t think for a moment that I don’t love you or that I want someone else – anyone else. I just – want you, love – that’s why. It felt like you were abandoning me, I didn’t know what to do.” 

He knows it's not enough – of course he does, he's not that arrogant - and yet it's everything he can offer right now, and he's not willing to hold anything back if doing that means losing his only chance to get his husband to understand they can be together again – that he's willing. That he needs this. 

Erik stares for the longest moments, and Charles stares back – at least he owes him that: the determination to stay true to the words he's chosen to give him. 

“I don’t like what you chose to do,” Erik mutters in the end, and Charles knows he's trying hard not to show any emotion that would betray his steady voice. 

“I know," he nods. "I’m sorry.” 

There's not much he can say at this point – there's not much any of them can say, not when they've both asked for forgiveness for sins that cannot be washed away that easily. They'll need time, of course, maybe more than Charles is willing to accept, but he's well aware he can't force any forgiveness out of his husband – not after what he's done, what he's made him see

He steps closer to Erik, silently. Their eyes are still locked together and the words are somehow unnecessary, but Charles doesn't really want this moment to end. It feels alright, now – he wouldn't dare to say good, but surely better than he's felt these last few days, when Erik was so close and yet so distant he almost gave in to the impression that they were never actually sharing the same household. 

They are now, and that's the only thing that matters. 

“Charles," Erik whispers again, after long moments of silence. "You need to dry your hair and clothes.”  

“Yeah,” he nods. It feels like forever since he's walked under the rain, and the long missed company of his husband almost made him forget, but his hair's still dripping, and the water drops are starting to gather around his feet. He smiles briefly, apologetically, and Erik lets out a small sigh. 

“Why didn’t you use an umbrella or just call a cab?” 

Charles shrugs, honestly lacking any good explanation, and Erik sighs harder. For the first time in days – no, months - Charles can recognize him – all the little gestures and expressions that made Erik his favourite person in the whole world. That made him his husband.  

“Come," Erik raises a hand, offering it to him. Charles stares at it for a moment, surprised, and then looks up. "Let’s get to our room,” Erik explains. 

When he turns his gaze down again, the hand is still there.  

"Are you sure?" 

He hears another sigh, and then there are fingers brushing his wet sleeve, sliding down until they touch the bare skin of his hand. Charles finds himself holding his breath while their fingers intertwine, and for just that moment he feels like crying – he doesn't want to lose this again – this sensation, the right to stay by his side and to take his hand and to look into his eyes and know that he will not find hate or coldness reflected. He doesn't want to lose Erik ever again. 

They walk together the their room, in silence. The corridors seem endless but Charles doesn't mind as long as he's not alone. He only hesitates for a moment when they stop in front of the door to the bedroom, but Erik doesn't let go. Instead he says, "Let's forget for one night," and invites him inside. 

They do, indeed, forget. And when Charles finally falls into sleep, it feels like he'd forgotten to rest for a whole week.