rosivan: (silliness (shoo mr bats))
[personal profile] rosivan
wordcount: ~16,850
warnings: mentions of past abuse, bdsm
summary: Erik is an ophthalmologist and general practitioner for a 24-7 clinic. Charles is science professor who makes use of the clinic with the concern that perhaps he's losing his vision...

NOTE: I only wrote Erik.




It was night shift at the hospital and Erik Lehnsherr was unfortunately on call, officially a ophthalmologist and general practitioner for the 24-7 clinic on the main floor. The staff generally left him alone unless he was needed, and if Erik wasn't smoking on the roof, he was meticulously going through his Sudoku book of the week, seated somewhere in the patient lobby.

He was working on puzzle #223 (DIFFICULT) with a ball point pen scratching the numbers into place between his finger tips. Overhead the television was set to the TV guide, classical musical playing on low volume.

It had been a fluke. A ridiculous, impossible fluke -- Charles had been wearing safety goggles, had been following all safety procedures during the lab, but one moment he was glancing up to explain a particularly difficult concept to his students and the next, both his eyes were burning like he'd rubbed salt in them.

He'd flushed his eyes, thought it was fine. And now, two days later, he's woken at three in the morning and even his optimism can't allow him to deny that everything is fuzzy and... darker on the edges.

He ends up at his local hospital, head buzzing with the late night city. It's hard to block it all out sometimes, but he does his best. Can't handle the telepathy right now on top of this. He strides through the front doors of the emergency room, one hand cradled nervously to his chest, and explains the situation to the receptionist, who promptly sits him down and calls someone over the PA, Erik-something.

Erik finishes off the last row on the puzzle before tucking his book into the front pocket of his labcoat and tucking the ballpoint behind one ear. The pen doesn't really stay there, but Erik makes it, which never ceases to astonish the orderlies when he bends over to grab a chart or something and it never topples away.

Margaret hands him a file when Erik leans over the desk counter and he flips through it for a moment, frowning at the explanation given by the patient. "Set him up in four," he tells her. "I'll be right with him." Erik leans back over the counter to start himself a pretend phone call and watches Xavier (comma Charles) out of the corner of his eye.

The nurse -- Margaret, he heard the doctor say -- guides Charles gently down the hall to a smaller room. He does his best, but everything is the same fucking shade of white and it's only by the nurse's hand that he gets there without smacking anything. She drags a chair over for him in the examination room and he presses himself into it, panic curling low in his stomach. It seems like it's getting worse by the second, though he knows that's only his nervousness. Charles hasn't prayed in a long time, but he's vaguely considering it when a quick, sharp stab of pain cuts through him and then vanishes again, quick as it came.

Erik speaks quietly with Margaret for a moment, questions about Xavier's reactions, how he had seemed, and she finds him genuine. Erik nods his thanks and continues down the hall, folder in hand. He's grown to be a little warier of patients in the early morning, not because the ones who visit emergency during the day are exempt, but because weird things tend to happen at night.

"I'm Doctor Erik Lehnsherr," he introduces himself as he enters, and pulls the examination room door closed behind himself. Erik offers an even smile to the man in the chair and washes his hands at the sink off to the side. "It says here you're experiencing vision loss?"

"Charles Xavier," Charles says softly, though he's aware that Erik must already know his name from his file. Erik's smile is calming and all teeth. "Yes, I'm afraid. I -- ah, I'm a professor of genetics at Oxford, and I was running a lab two days ago." He shifted uncomfortably, blinking. "I followed all normal safety procedures, but I must have gotten some of the chemicals in my eyes. This morning I woke and my vision is getting fuzzy -- darker, too."

Erik moved across the room to stand in front of Charles, looking down at him, gaze steady. He lifted a hand and held it directly in Charles' line of sight, a few feet away. "Charles, I'm going to move my hand from either side. I want you to look straight ahead and tell me when you can no longer see my hand in your peripheral. Are you experiencing any pain?"

"Occasionally," Charles admitted. Erik's hand shifted and when it blurred and vanished, Charles raised two fingers, his expression dimming. His vision was tunneling; that he knew. "Short, sharp little pains. Not an ache or anything of the like."

"Have you noticed a change in vision from the time you left home to now?" Erik went to collect some test samples from the cupboard, and paused to jot notes on the file. "And you're certain this is from the lab and not something that would have occurred more recently?"

"Perhaps a little blurring, but not as dramatic as this?" Charles eyed the notepad, shifting nervously in his seat. "No, this is definitely from the lab. I've been -- " He started as Erik bent down to pull out some sample tests, and his small pen, which looked about ready to slip from behind his ear, stayed perfectly in place. "Ah, my apologies, I've been rather careful with my eyes since the incident."

Erik returned, tugging along a rolling chair with his fingertips, though his wasn't the touch that was making it roll along after him. He settled beside Charles, still facing him and started ripping open packets in his lap. He explained, "I'll take a pH sample of your eyes and do a saline wash. I'll also check your eyelids and take you over to the optics labs to get a better look at your eyes. I'll be honest, Mr Xavier, your peripherals aren't what they should be, I'm sure you're aware or you wouldn't have come down here."

Leaning in, Erik raised his hands and indicated for Charles to look up at the ceiling. "You'll feel a touch, try not to blink." He set his fingers to help keep the lid open and carefully took samples of both eyes.

The samples were uncomfortable, but Erik's fingertips were gentle, and he'd already given Charles enough to think about -- the chair, for example. He'd barely pulled it with his fingertips, but it had slid neatly under him as if choreographed. Once the samples were done and Charles's eyes had been flushed with saline, he was disappointed to find that his vision was still exactly the same.

He folded his hands in his lap, optimism warring with reality. "Dr. Lehnsherr?" he murmured, drawing Erik's attention from his notepad. "It's not likely that my condition will improve, is it?"

Erik looked up from what he was writing - neat notes in blue ink over the lined pages - and gauged Charles for a moment. He was a professor of genetics, knew the procedures and the risks of lab work. Erik set his pen over his ear again and offered a half-smile. "At this point, I'd like to access the damage first. Because of the length of time between exposure and your admission tonight, it may be infection or glaucoma. I'll know more when I've completed a few tests." He carefully asked, "Can I trust you not to be an alarmist, Mr Xavier?"

Charles gave him a small, soft smile. "I may be an optimist, Doctor, but I'm also a realist. I knew when I woke this morning that I likely am going to lose my vision." He paused, gathering himself. He was terrified. "I simply wanted... a more professional opinion."

Erik examined him for a moment, privately admiring the show of strength that the professor was capable of giving in the face of such a medical crisis. He stood and collected the patient file and pivoted to offer a hand to Charles, left at elbow height as a guide for him. "I'll take some photographs and scans in my lab if you'll come with me. I'll have more precise information for you then."

The offer to guide might have offended Charles when he was younger, but now he smiled and gently slipped his fingers into the crook of Erik's elbow, allowing the doctor to lead him down to the lab. As they walked, Charles considered letting himself check Erik's mind, letting himself look to see... What? Ridiculous, he told himself. Just because Erik was good with pens and chairs. "Thank you," he murmured belatedly as they entered the lab together.

Erik's new patient (and considering it was an optical issue, would be his even after the night shift) baffled him slightly, taking the whole affair in stride, from potential blindness to assistance walking. Rare and baffling. Erik walked him through the tests, the usual requests of stare at the tractor, tell me when you see the light flash and when does the two sides line up and tell me when this is in focus. He took several photographs and had Charles put in some eye drops to ease the irritation before taking him to a patient room to rest and wait for results.

"It'll be a few hours, but I'm almost certain we'll have to admit you for surgery." Erik closed the file and fanned the pages absently with one thumb. "A nurse will bring some forms for you to fill out. Do you have any questions for me?"

Charles had been taking everything in, trying to let it all soak before he really reacted. "Ah, yes," he said quietly. "Is there... Is there any point to surgery?" He shrugged his shoulders in a small what can you do? gesture. "If it won't help, I'd rather not..."

"If it's not controlled," Erik explained, pulling his pen down to twirl it between his fingers, "You'll run the risk of losing your vision completely. It won't bring back what you've lost, but you could retain partial vision, Mr Xavier."

Charles ran his bottom lip between his teeth. "All right." He leaned forward in his chair, offering a small smile. "I trust you, Doctor. If you think the surgery will help, I'll... I'll definitely look into it."

Erik's forehead pinched slightly and he leaned back against the wall for a moment. "Like I said, I know when I get the results back in a few hours. This may be something you won't be able to put off. If your vision has blurred in a few days time, it needs to be taken care of as soon as possible." The pain was a symptom as well, and if Charles started showing signs of (among other things) nausea, red eye and seeing halos around lights, then blindness would be a genuine worry.

"Right, well." Charles stood, offering his hand to Erik. "Thank you. You've been a lot of help. Friendly, too." He flashed Erik a grin as Erik gave his hand.

The instant their palms touched, shock rippled through Charles, the sudden spill of another person's thoughts tangling with his own. His knees buckled as the realization hit -- that Erik was like him, the feel of it as familiar as his own.

Erik lurched forward before he realized what he was doing. His arms went to catch Charles, concern flaring hot and sharp at the back of his throat, ending with a strange shift of perception like the brightness of shock. "Xavier," Erik said urgently, dragging them over to the bed, "Charles, what's going on? Can you see me?"

Erik was touching him again, his thoughts, emotions pouring into Charles through the rough skin of his palms. "D-Don't," Charles gasped, batting Erik's hands away and cradling his head in one hand. "Yes, I can. Good lord, yes. I can see you."

A coolness slipped over Erik while he fumbled for a penlight in his pocket. He caught Charles' chin firmly in one hand and tipped his face up so Erik could examine his eyes while he checked pupil dialation. "What just happened? Nausea? Dizziness?"

Charles grabbed Erik's wrist and pulled his hand down, pushed it away. No touching, he gasped, and he meant for it to be aloud, thought it was aloud. He dropped his head, rubbing his temples. "Ow."

The light in Erik's other hand fell from limp fingers, pen slipping off his ear as Erik stared at Charles. Both clattered to the floor, mostly unnoticed and Erik's throat worked for a moment. "H-How did you do that? Who are you?"

"How did I do w--" Charles glanced up from between his fingers. "Oh." He bit down on the inside of his cheek, fingers tangling. He'd never actually had to... explain it before. He'd denied it existed, mostly. He took a slow breath. You know who I am. I - I've always been able to do it.

Erik was suddenly breathing too fast, faint like he was going to pass out. A flick of his fingers brought a chair scraping across the floor to him to drop into. "I thought I was the only one." It wasn't the same for them, Erik could hear Charles' voice inside his head, but they were both...different.

Charles stared, amazed, at the path the chair had made. "No, you're -- you're not the only one." He wasn't sure if he was telling Erik or himself. "You're not the only one." Shock ricocheted through him. There were more like him. Maybe more than he and Erik -- maybe /thousands/.

Erik felt exactly like the expression on Charles' face, stunned and relieved, perhaps a touch desperately pleased. "Your voice, you were in my head. That's what you do?"

"I'm a telepath," Charles agreed, nodding. He struggled to regain his composure, his fingers twisting in his shirt. "You and metal?"

Erik gently tugged the shirt out of Charles hands by tugging on the snaps. He sent it lying flat and nodded, tipping back in against his chair. "It calls to me. I can't explain it."

Charles stared down at his shirt, incapable of hiding his surprise and delight, and then looked back up at Erik, eyes shining. "You're amazing. My god, I never dared hope there would be more."

The brightness in Charles gaze was startling - Erik couldn't remember the last time that someone had looked at him like that. He blinked abruptly and glanced down at his hands, belatedly remembering the conditions of their meeting. "I should tend my lab. I would advise against driving, if you're eager to go home."

"I -- right," Charles murmured, just now remembering why he was really here. He reached down and gently picked up Erik's pen, stole his notepad and jotted down his mobile. "Call me with the results, please?"

"Of course." Erik took back the pen and pad, and offered a card in return. On the back he wrote his cellphone number, neatly printed. "If there are any changes, Charles, come in immediately. Do you have someone to drive you?"

"I'll walk," Charles said, smiling. He took the card, tucked it away. "I'd offer my hand, but..." His grin turned sheepish as he stepped toward the door. "It was a true pleasure to meet you, Erik Lehnsherr."

Erik frowned slightly, ignoring the good bye, as lovely as it was. "How far of a walk is it?"

"Six blocks," Charles said lightly. "I'll be all right." He slipped into the quiet hallway, chin tipped down as he smiled at Erik.

Erik peeked out into the hall to watch him go and then flagged down the first orderly walking by. "Take a walk, get a coffee." He pressed a bill into the man's palm and nodded at Charles' back at the distant end of the hall. Erik said quietly, "Make sure he gets home. If he doesn't, don't bother coming back to work."

Charles noticed halfway home that he was being followed, and, elated from what had happened with Erik, he carefully read the man. Ah-ha. Erik had sent him. Charles smothered a laugh, surprised and pleased, and pulled his cell out to send Erik a quick text message. "Thank you for the escort."

He had just started puzzle #144 (DIFFICULT) when Erik's phone buzzed at him. He read Charles' text and replied 'Haven't the faintest. You're home in one piece?'

"Yes," Charles texted as soon as he'd reached his flat. He shrugged his jacket off and dropped down in his armchair. His eyes burst out another short, sharp pain, and he sat with his fingers pressed to his eyes until it was gone. "Thank you."

Erik didn't get a chance to text him back until after he'd finished with a patient who'd been rushed in with breathing problems. By then, Erik had Charles' results back and he was reading through them in the relative quiet of his office. He glanced at the clock - just short of five in the morning. Erik texted Charles quickly, 'Have results. Call me when you're ready.'

Charles was half-dozing as an infomercial played in the background, his phone on his chest. The soft chime startled him awake, and he stared at the text for a full minute before shakily dialing Erik's number.

Erik, who had thought he wouldn't hear from Charles until the morning at least, sounded slightly irritated when he answered. "Doctor Lehnsherr. You should be sleeping, Charles."

"Couldn't," Charles murmured, sounding sleepy and softly apologetic. "Would you like me to call back later?"

Erik sighed softly at him and the irritation faded away. "Not if you've no intention of sleeping." He twirled in his chair, kicking his legs up on the corner of his desk. "How is your vision? How are feeling?"

"I'm all right." Then, softer, "It's bad, isn't it."

Erik rubbed his fingers against his forehead. "I'm sorry, Charles. It's only going to get worse. I highly recommend the surgery."

Charles slumped back in his chair, huffing out a long breath and willing himself to relax. "And I'll retain partial vision?"

"The sooner the more likely." Erik's voice was soothing as he could manage. "But like any procedure, there are always elements of risk.'

"Of course," Charles responded, rubbing a hand over his forehead. "Well, whenever is convenient for you. It will be you, correct?"

"Yes," Erik confirmed. He flicked open his day planner, "I have an open slot tomorrow afternoon, but I can't delay my other surgeries before then, unfortunately."

Charles huffed out in something that was a mix of nervousness and relief. "Tomorrow is fine. I feel much safer in your hands, knowing your gift."

"That doesn't quite have anything to do with the surgery,' Erik said gently. He sighed a little and shuffled his papers around. "But I'm glad you'll do it."

Charles hummed quietly, inappropriately unwilling to get off the phone. "I'd rather not, if I can be completely honest. But I do trust your opinion, and your skills."

"No one prefers the surgery, Charles," Erik said with a touch of amusement. "I will ask, though - what will happen if someone touches your skin? Myself or another?"

Charles tilted the phone between his ear and shoulder. "Nothing. Usually I can -- suppress my mutation." He was surprised to feel guilt flare. "You're an exception, apparently." He paused, unsure of how to phrase it. "I'm not sure if it's the simple fact that you are also a mutant, or something else."

"I will need to touch you," Erik said with some concern. "You must control it, or it'll bring danger to you. Do you understand?"

"I'll be all right," Charles said softly, though Erik's point was valid. The only way he could think to be sure it would be under control was... "Well -- Ah, actually, do you have any time when we can meet beforehand? It might best to practice."

Erik flipped through his planner again and rattled off a few times he could meet Charles. "If I don't feel like you'll have the control," he warned, "I'll bring in another doctor to do the actual surgery."

Charles pursed his lips, agreed to the earliest time. "I'd rather have you," he protested, but he knew Erik was being logical. "With your mutation, Erik, your control over surgical tools surpasses anyone else's."

"As flattering as your preference may be," Erik said carefully, "I don't wish to see you hurt." Over the intercom, his name was paged to the front desk. "I have to go, Charles. I'll let the nurses know of our appointments."

"Thank you," Charles mumbled. "I'll -- I look forward to seeing you." He clicked his cell shut, stared at it for a moment, then sighed and set it aside. A whole new mess of complications in the span of two days.

------------------------------------------------------------

Charles arrived at the hospital at promptly six pm, because apparently Erik worked all sorts of weird hours and this was his only open slot before he got to leave at seven.

The same nurse -- Margaret, Charles remembered -- was up front, and she stood as he came in, her hand held out like she was going to guide him. He held a hand up, turning his head so he had her in the clear tunnel of his sight. "I'm all right, thank you. Doctor Lehnsherr is expecting me?" She nodded agreement and led him back past the examination rooms to a richly-decorated office, all cherry oak and deep red.

"Have a seat, he'll be in," she told him, and Charles took one of the two seats in front of Erik's desk, hands folded carefully in his lap.

Erik swept past Margaret before he could hear what she had to say to him, too busy digging through his half-open briefcase as he walked, searching for his phone. He was late, held up in a finance meeting with the rest of the department heads and the accounting team, fighting for dimes and nickles. His 'getting funding' suit was deep navy and tailored, with a pressed fold in the pant. The top two buttons of Erik's shirt was undone, satin tie hanging, and he slipped into his office without making eye contact with anyone in the hall.

An instinctive mental grab saved his tossed briefcase from landing on Charles' head (metal brackets on the bottom, and the locks at the top), but Erik couldn't snag his jacket (plastic buttons) in midair, and watched it flop over his patient. "Shit," he said immediately, reaching to take it off him, "I didn't see you."

Charles peered at him from under a fold of the jacket, barely able to keep from laughing. "At least you caught your briefcase," he said, shrugging the jacket off as Erik took it. "And good evening to you as well, Doctor."

"Of course," Erik murmured, a little embarrassed. He hung his coat on a hook and closed his office door. "How are you feeling, Charles?"

"As well as can be expected," Charles said softly. "I think it's getting a little worse, but it's so gradual I can hardly notice."

Erik nodded, and instead of seating himself on his usual side of the desk, pulled out the second chair beside Charles. He'd expected to hear Charles' answer, and would have been surprised if it had been different. "And how are you doing?" Though the question was similar, it was asking something completely different

Charles shifted, curling one leg underneath him so he could face Erik more easily. "I'm... all right. It's still settling in, I think." He shrugged, leaned one cheek on his hand. "And you? You seem... rushed."

Erik didn't answer for a moment, surprised by the question. It was...almost guiltily refreshing not to have to deal with the distraught panic he sometimes witnessed in his line of work. "Finance meeting went over," he said belatedly. He unbuttoned his shirt sleeves and folded them to mid-forearm before offering his palms to Charles. "Shall we start?"

Went over didn't sound incredibly promising, but Charles was eager to start. He smiled up at Erik and dragged his chair closer, turned it round so they could sit face to face. "Have you ever meditated? Anything of the like?"

Deadpan, "It's why some of the staff still live."

Charles huffed out a laugh, his eyes brightening. "I need you to try it for me. Just... for a moment, try and calm your mind."

Erik gazed at Charles for a moment and breathed deeply, his body going loose and then tense like preparing to make an incision. Like reminding himself that he needed orderlies and nurses other than Margaret.

Charles let him do it, then cautiously left the barriers he'd grown so used to keeping up around his own mind. It was normally so easy to keep others out -- practiced, now, and easy. Charles laid his palms on Erik's, fingertips brushing the heels of his hands, and gasped as Erik's awareness rushed into him. He pulled back immediately, one hand cradling his head. "Metal sings to you," he muttered, fingers rubbing anxiously. "Good lord, Erik."

Erik blinked at him, fingers curling up slightly. "That was barely a touch, Charles." He was starting to get the feeling that whatever physical interaction they had wouldn't be easily solved by concentration and meditation the day before the surgery.

"Yes, yes, I know." Charles took a deep breath and held his hands out again, hesitating for a moment before lowering his hands slowly to Erik's. The same surge, but Charles breathed through it, forcing himself to calm, to work through Erik's mind and separate it from his own. When he was confident he could speak, he pushed out, "I don't know why your mind is so -- attractive," he finished lamely, unable to think of a better word. "I've never felt this with anyone."

"I can't help but be magnetic," Erik said flatly, privately thrilled to make the joke and have someone know why it was funny. He closed his hands over Charles' and leaned forward in the chair.

Charles shook and instinctively tried to pull away, but Erik's hands were closed, fingers tight on Charles's. He shut his eyes, breath hitching, and fought again to separate their minds, to let Erik's be his own. He managed a moment longer before he had to shake Erik's hands off and retreat, eyes fluttering open as he flopped back in his chair. "Progress," he said weakly, rubbing absently at one eye.

Erik had a strange moment, a little bit like vertigo, and he marvelled at the strange warmth that flooded at the back of his neck. He couldn't hear Charles' voice or anything, but he was undoubtedly doing something. He pulled his hands back when Charles urged him to and leaned back in his chair to examine him. "Is there a way for me to help?"

"I don't think so. I simply have to -- get used to you." Charles smiled at him, a little sheepish, and dropped his hands into his lap. He gave himself a moment, then extended his hands again, slim fingers curling and uncurling. Gently, he reached out before touching Erik's hands. Is this all right? I think it may help me.

Erik halted in mid-thought about Charles' hands when his voice drifted in echo-soft at the edges of Erik's mind. I...of course. He stared down at their hands between them.

Charles's smile softened a little at Erik's mental voice. Let me know if this is uncomfortable for you. He took Erik's hands gently in his, ready for the shock this time, though it was softened. The sorting went more easily, and when Charles could finally touch Erik and think at the same time, he leaned back in his chair, fingertips light on Erik's hands. I think I'm all right. Are you?

Take no offence, but this is very strange for me. Erik huffed a quiet laugh, delighted with the experience, not in anyway put off by it.

I'd imagine, Charles said, laughing in response. He slowly let Erik's hands go, his eyes dipping to the barcode tattooed on the inside of his wrist. He let his eyes linger but didn't ask, and when he looked up again, fingers skimming the backs of Erik's hands to be sure he could handle it, he said It's very strange for me too.

Erik shivered unintentionally at the second touch, unprepared for the intimacy of it, despite the nature of their exercise. He caught Charles' look at the tattoo and explained briefly, "Just a med school thing."

Of course, I. I didn't mean to stare. It's simply very unusual
. Charles's eyes flickered at Erik's shudder and he pulled his hands away to leave them in his lap. "Thank you," he said aloud.

In experiment, Erik reached across slowly, and touched his fingers light at the corners of Charles' eyes. He kept a steady gaze with him, watching Charles' reaction.

Charles startled, unprepared for the (admittedly intimate) touch. He realized a moment later, his hands already curved around Erik's wrists. The jumble of thoughts slid into him and then faded. I'm all right.

What happens when I do that? Erik's brow was creased slightly in concern. "Does it hurt?"

"When you touch me? No, not at all." Charles curled his fingers, gripping Erik's wrists gently. "You surprised me is all."

Erik let his fingertips drop, horrifyingly unprofessional, down the smooth of Charles' temple. "I may surprise you in surgery. I'm not certain I should perform the procedure for you, Charles."

"You should." Charles's eyes closed as Erik's fingers smoothed over his skin. This was... not quite what he had expected, coming in here, but he wasn't opposed to it. He squeezed Erik's wrists and released them, tilting his head into Erik's hand. "We'll be all right."

Erik indulged in a press of his palm to Charles' cheek and temple before dropping his hands away. "You need better than 'all right'."

Charles watched Erik's hand as it dropped, a flush creeping up the back of his neck. "I trust you," he said, a half-smile tugging at his lips. He met Erik's eyes. "And I trust myself. It will be fine."

"As inspiring as your faith is," Erik murmured, "It would be unethical of me to rely on it." He sighed regretfully, but amended, "I'll still be present, if you like, but I'm not convinced, Charles. I'm sorry."

Charles sighed, leaning back in his chair. "Yes, all right, if you think it's best." Because he did trust Erik, which meant he trusted his opinion. "I would like you there."

"Then I will be," Erik promised. He regarded Charles quietly. "You're free to go, if you wish. Unless I tempt you into a very delicious fruit cup in the cafeteria?" The way he said 'delicious' made the term sound suspect.

Charles smiled and stood, checked the clock. "You're off in half an hour, aren't you? I wouldn't mind waiting if you'd like to go for coffee or, you know," he half-shrugged still smiling, "real food."

Erik smiled, quietly pleased. "I dream of real food." How Charles knew he was done in a half hour was better not examined too closely. "In a half, then."

"You're in luck, then. I'll meet you out front." Charles nodded to Erik, slipped out his office door and down the hall, where Margaret insisted on bringing him tea and smiled enthusiastically when he told her why he was waiting.

Erik spent his half hour arranging for a colleague to take Charles' surgery, despite the fact that Erik would be present. When he was finally locking up his office, Erik had lost a good bottle of scotch and gained two week's worth of night shifts for the trade off. Emma Frost was not to be trifled with.

Erik made his way past Margaret, stopped for a moment when she voiced her glowing opinions of Charles loudly, and then fled out the front doors.

Charles was standing just outside the front doors, hands tucked in the pockets of his sweater and cheeks flushed a dark red. He'd been keeping a mental eye on Margaret, just to see if he could and to see when Erik would be coming out, and he'd heard everything she said. "She's, ah, she's certainly kind."

Erik's embarrassed smile turned wicked when he saw Charles' blush. He was suddenly very relieved his replies to Margaret had been limited to 'yes' and 'but I've only just met him'. Erik told Charles, "That's what you get for eavesdropping."

"I didn't expect that!" Charles protested, looking away from the bright flash of Erik's teeth. He had a pretty smile. "Hmph. Where shall we go?"

"You'll rarely get what you expect when you're secretly listening," Erik said while he slipped into his jacket. "I'm afraid I only know the curry place a couple blocks over. Between here and there is a blank."

"Curry sounds wonderful," Charles told him, falling into step beside him. He stuck close, using Erik as a guide for where the sidewalk was, where the walls of the buildings that bordered it were. "Do you not go out a lot?"

Erik unthinkingly slipped his arm around Charles, hand hovering light at the small of his back as a group of people flooded the sidewalk after a walk light. "I tend to brown bag. I'm fond of cooking."

Charles blinked, shuffling sideways into the crook of Erik's arm, which he was apparently in, Erik's fingers pressing gently at the base of his spine. "Lucky. I'm a terrible cook. I can make eggs if the smoke alarm is in a forgiving mood."

Erik laughed quietly over the crown of Charles' head and led them across the street when the light showed walk. "Your poor stomach," he murmured.

"It survives on takeout." Charles told him, letting an arm rest light around Erik's waist so it wasn't awkwardly bumping his side. "Besides, eggs are delicious."

Erik seemed surprised by the returning gesture. "Eggs are good occasionally," he corrected. The smell of curry drifted, warming the air around them.

"Eggs are good always," Charles said cheerfully. He released Erik when they reached the curry shop, instead tucking two fingers into a strap on his coat since the restaurant was darker inside. He took a moment to adjust and found Erik's arm instead, blinking to try to get used to the lower light. Sorry, I guess it's difficult for me to go from light to dark.

It's all right. Erik led Charles across the resturant floor, distractedly close to Charles as the host seated them at Erik's usual table in the back. I should've remembered.

Charles took the seat across from Erik and nodded to the host in thanks. It's not your fault, he said, amused and palming the menu. He had to squint at it to be able to read it, the dark creeping in on the edges of his vision. "What's your usual?"

The hostess had left a menu for Erik out of courtesy to Charles. "I don't exactly...know, anymore." Which said just how often he ordered from the establishment. "It's a medium heat, over rice."

Charles folded his menu and set it on the edge of the table. "I'll have the same, then." He ordered a scotch on the rocks when their waiter dropped by and let Erik take care of the rest.

Erik ordered two of whatever his usual actually was, then a glass of vodka and lime for himself. He watched the lazy unfocus of Charles' eyes and forced himself to be detached; there was nothing he could do about it now.

"So, Dr. Lehnsherr," Charles said, leaning forward and pressing on his best psychologist's. "Tell me about yourself."

"I like bubble baths and long walks on the beach," Erik said blandly. Then, a little more honesty, "I'm allergic to stupidity and spent more time in my office than my apartment."

Charles grinned at him, charmed by his dry sense of humor. "What a coincidence, bubble baths are my favorites to -- thank you very much," he said, turning to face their waiter, whose expression showed just how startled he was that Charles had known he was there. Scotch in hand, Charles fixed his gaze on Erik again, trying to ignore the dark edges of his vision. "Also, you're charming for a man who apparently doesn't like people and loves his work. You don't fit the stereotype."

"I don't like stupid people," Erik corrected, sipping slow from his glass and savouring the clean bite of the vodka as he swallowed. "I have a pup. She keeps me young and in my place."

Charles's smile widened. "I love dogs." Then, a moment later, "So what's kept you from people, then?"

"Work and the involvement therein," Erik said vaguely. "I assume genetics isn't a chance subject of study? Considering."

"Not chance at all." Charles tapped two fingers against his bottom lip in pause. "I always believed my -- our -- gifts had to be something genetic, not magical. And I suppose it sort of fell in from there."

"A man of science from the beginning, then." Erik leaned in, amused twinkle to his glance. "I thought it was magic. Telekenetic. Imagine my disappointment."

"You are quite magical, Erik," Charles said without meaning to, and drowned his embarrassed choke in his scotch. "Yes -- well," he said before Erik could cut in. "All genes, I'm afraid, but I had never hoped there would be more of us."

Erik casually tipped the pepper shaker over with a thought, and as it rolled, it drew a sloppy smile on the table. "If it's genetic, then there must be more. Many more."

Charles watched with poorly-concealed amazement. "I will never get tired of that," he murmured, tapping the little crystal shaker with one finger. "I thought I was -- alone," he half-laughed, recalling Erik's words from the day before.

"Well," Erik said at length, and reached across with his glass to tip it against Charles'. "Apparently the perk of a well-populated planet is that we are not alone."

Charles stared at him a moment, then tipped his glass against Erik's a second time. "Mutant and proud, yes?"

Erik laughed, watching Charles over the top of his glass while he drank. "Of course."

Their food was dropped off a moment later, and whatever Erik's usual was, it was delicious. "So why opthamology?" Charles asked, a few bites in.

"Pacemakers get jittery when I put my hands near them," Erik said lightly. It was only partly untrue. "I've always wanted to be a surgeon. I decided the less to do with any application of metal, the better."

Charles tilted his head, pointing at Erik with his fork. "You want to avoid metal?"

Erik ate for a while, wording and rewording his next reply in his head. "What I do, I know it has emotional ties in me. I wouldn't want to run that risk."

"Emotional ties to your powers?" Charles asked, taking another sip of scotch. "Erik, if you used them in surgery, think of all the good you could do! You'd have to master the more fine-point techniques, but lord, you would be incredible."

"And what if I were angry," Erik asked, "Or upset? Think of what harm I could bring to someone." He shook his head.

Charles let it go; this was supposed to be a pleasant dinner, not a fight. You should think about it, he said softly, and went back to his food.

Erik couldn't help but feel like Charles was disappointed in him. He shook it off and didn't answer, focusing on his food and cooling vodka.

Charles finished eating quietly, and when the check came snatched it up before Erik could get his hands on it. "Thank you," he said, passing it off to the waiter, and flashed Erik a smile. "And thank you for your company."

Erik almost winced at the formality, but offered his arm as they stood to leave. "Can I...walk you home? It'll take me a few minutes to find an orderly this far from the hospital.."

"Are you sure?" Charles slipped his fingers into the now-familiar bend of Erik's elbow and let himself be led from the restaurant outside, where night had fallen. "I don't want to inconvenience you; you've certainly done enough for me."

"I haven't done anything, Charles." Erik said softly. He tried to match Charles' pace, so it didn't seem like Erik was leading him along. "You have a tendency towards graciousness."

Charles leaned a little into him, laughing. "You've done more than enough." He went quiet a moment, squeezed Erik's arm, and said softly, "I grew up in Clinton."

Erik hummed. It explained a little bit. "Did you enjoy it?" Erik grew up in boarding schools, as he liked to think.

"No," Charles murmured. "As for you saying I have a tendency toward graciousness, I think it's because I grew up watching so many awful people." He laughed it off, leaned his head on Erik's shoulder.

"No ego to speak of, I see," Erik said with a turn of his head, almost speaking into the dark ruffle of Charles' hair.

"You'll see it eventually," Charles huffed, squeezing Erik's arm again. "I'm hardly a saint. I just dislike people who are amazingly selfish."

"Well, you'll find that out about me sooner or later, Charles." Erik mock teased, "Don't place me too high on a pedestal. I'll fall heavy."

"I'm sure," Charles responded, voice low and amused in Erik's ear. He pulled them to a halt outside his familiar grey, unassuming flat just as rain began to trickle down. "Oh," Charles murmured, surprised, and tilted his head back, eyes closing against the steady, warm summer rain.

Erik swayed in place, struck by the casual beauty of Charles, eyes closed against the sky and wet with rain. It took effort to swallow around the lump in his throat, and when he realized his free hand was reaching out to touch Charles's cheek, Erik aborted the movement. He tugged Charles' collar a little higher instead, the back of his neck warm and tingling. "You'll catch a cold standing out here," Erik said roughly. "In you go."

Charles opened his eyes, face still tilted up, and glanced at Erik. "Yes, mother." He spared the sky one last look before ducking inside, pulling Erik in with him. "I'll see if I have an umbrella, or I'll call you a cab, is that all right? Don't bother taking your shoes off." He flicked lights on as he went, revealing a simple, homey little living room.

Erik faltered, awkward in the doorway for a split second. "That's not necessary, Charles." He turned, called out, "I'll see you tomorrow. Get some sleep."

Charles turned, head cocked. Erik, it's pouring! he called after him, still holding the door open. At least wait out the rain.

Erik hesitated with a glance to his watch, and with a sigh, stepped back inside. "It wouldn't do for me to be sick, instead of in the operating room."

"Exactly!" Charles pulled him in, brushing rain off his jacket. He shut the door, bustling Erik inside. "Go straight, then right," he ordered, directing them both into the kitchen, which was painted a warm yellow.

"Busybody," Erik accused without heat. He peeled off his wet jacket and slicked his hair away from his forehead. "Do you live on your own?"

"Yes," Charles said lightly. He flicked the aged coffeepot on and hopped up to sit on the island placed in the center of the kitchen. "Are you cold?"

Erik couldn't help but wonder what a 'yes' would get him. He murmurs instead, "Rained on."

Charles slid down and kicked his shoes off, padded to his bedroom. "I don't know if I have anything that'll fit you properly," he called, already sifting through racks. He found a sweatshirt from Oxford that had always been enormous on him and carried it out. "Here, this might."

Erik took the sweatshirt from Charles with a murmured thank you and dropped his gaze as he undid the buttons on his dress shirt. His tie was already gone, tucked away in his jacket pocket, and Erik stripped away the shirt to reveal the pain tee he was wearing underneath. He pulled the sweater over his head and ran a hand through his hair again.

Charles dipped back into his room to change and re-emerged in a navy wife-beater and baggy sweatpants that nearly swallowed him up. "Coffee?"

"If you don't mind," Erik said. He stationed himself against the middle island, fingers playing with the cuffs of his borrowed sweater. It fit him almost well, even if it were a bit short on the length.

"Of course. Black?" Charles assumed, pouring out two cups. He pulled out flavored creamer and sugar for his own, then glanced back at Erik.

Erik moved closer to take the cup, a smile startled onto his face. "Yes, actually. Good guess."

"I didn't even have to read your mind." Charles tapped their mugs together and led Erik back out into the living room. Charles himself sat cross-legged on his coffee table, cup settled in his curled hands. Rain lashed the windows, thunder echoing, and a moment later, the electricity flickered off.

Erik bumped into the chair he'd been heading for, coffee spilling over the knuckles of his hand as it sloshed from the cup. He hissed in faint pain, and reached out with his sences, mapping the room with the metal and what he'd seen.

Charles stood at the hiss of pain, groping for Erik's arm. "Easy -- here." He stepped toward him, meaning to guide him back to the couch, and instead smacked into his chest, coffee spilling over the both of them. He choked out a laugh, stealing Erik's cup away and stepping back. "Sorry. Couch is back here."

"You are going to get coffee everywhere," Erik laughed, following along. He reached out in the dark and managed to curl a hand over Charles' shoulder, fingers catching on the edges of his shirt.

Charles set Erik's coffee down with his own on the coffee table and flopped onto the couch, pulling Erik gracelessly down with him. "There. Coffee -- and you -- secured."

Erik became a tangle in the dark, knees knocking against Charles' and one arm going over the couch back to steady himself. "Secured is one word for it."

"Safe!" Charles quipped as Erik slid onto the couch, their knees ending up pushed together. Charles curled up against one arm of the couch as thunder crashed outside. "Did it burn your hand?"

"It's not bad," Erik laughed quietly, rushing with the ridiculousness of the moment. "Surprise more than anything."

Charles settled back, draping one arm over the back of the couch. He tucked his hands in his lap, trying not to think This is what it could be like. "If you're sure." Thunder crashed again. "Perhaps you should just stay the night, it can't be safe to go out right now."

"Perhaps I should," Erik said carefully. He shifted until one leg was propped up and resting against the couch back, the other dropped casually open. Erik leaned back against the arm, his arms loosely crossed over his chest. "Can't say I'm tired just yet, though."

Charles's attention was caught by the slow lean of Erik's leg. He swallowed thickly and looked away. "I'm going to find candles," he said softly, tipping himself off the couch and finding his way by feel to the kitchen to fetch his scented candle (Campfire, his favorite) and a lighter. He set the candle in the center of the coffee table and lit it, then folded himself back on his side of the couch, watching Erik flicker through half-closed eyes.

Erik smiled privately to himself while Charles was getting a candle, and then shifted it carefully around the table once it was lit. His voice was low when he spoke, lulled by the dark, the weather and the candle light. "What do you do for fun, Charles?"

"I don't have a lot of free time," Charles laughed lightly. He shrugged, fingers playing with the loose folds of his sweatpants. "I read, mostly. Watch House."

"I prefer Scrubs," Erik said, then allowed, "I like Cuddy, though." Erik let his other leg drop, slipping down against Charles thigh and the couch. "And House's ex."

"Doctor Cox is my favorite," Charles said, flashing Erik a grin. He felt Erik's leg slide against his own, until they were resting comfortably together and Charles was reminded how small he was compared to Erik. "What about you?"

"Snorkling. Swimming." Erik slid down the arm until he was laying back, eyelids low as he looked at Charles. "Walking my dog."

Charles tucked his legs up and wrapped an arm around his knees, chin set on his wrist. "You have a swimmer's body," he commented, then flushed. "I mean -- I don't mean to." He cut off with a quiet, embarrassed laugh.

Erik's smile widened and he stretched his arms up, tucking his hands behind his head. "Quite all right. I was a university diver as well."

Charles stared at him, let the words sing through the air and vanish into nothing. Instead: "You're doing this on purpose."

Very plainly, "Would you like me to stop?"

"...No," Charles murmured, blinking owlishly at him. "I was just making sure you are doing it on purpose and I'm not insane."

"You are many things, Charles," Erik told him as he stretched back, a parody of a dive. "Insane isn't one of them."

Charles let one hand fall to the curve of Erik's calf, fingers dipping into the bend of his knee. "Perhaps you're the insane one, then."

Erik hummed and relaxed, hardly knowing that he'd been waiting for Charles' touch until he had it again. "It's been said of me."

Charles arched an eyebrow, fingers pausing their gentle swirls. "You're serious?"

Erik made a disgruntled noise and nudged Charles with his knee. "Yes."

Charles blinked down at Erik's knee and withdrew his hand to rest it along the back of the couch, eyes glittering. "I hardly understand why."

Erik attempted a pathetic expression and slid his other leg up to bracket Charles' thighs. "That's very good of you. But I'm not the easiest to get along with."

"That hardly means you're insane." Charles shifted his weight, leaning first into one leg, then into the other.

"I'm being nice to myself," Erik explained. He slid closer until he could press his knees against Charles' sides, wondering how far he was allowed, or willing to go.

Charles tilted his head, then leaned down and pressed his lips to Erik's knee. You don't think well of yourself?

Erik ignored the way his breath caught at the kiss, and how Charles looked in the candlelight. I like myself fine.

Charles left his head tilted down, but flicked his eyes up, looking at Erik through the faint haze that skirted the outer limits of his scope of vision. Forgive me. I didn't mean to assume.

You're not. Erik thought, before he remembered Charles could hear the thought. Then, with intention, he added, Let's leave it at that.

As you wish. Charles tilted his head, laid his cheek on Erik's knee. Is this why you didn't want to come in?

You're practically my patient.

And?


"I don't get involved with patients," Erik murmured.

Charles drummed his fingers once on Erik's calf, one eyebrow quirking. No?

Erik frowned at him. No.

Charles's eyes flickered closed. And me?

Erik's gaze slid almost guiltily to the side. Your overseeing doctor is officially Emma Frost as of this afternoon.

"But that's not why I insisted someone else take your surgery," Erik said seriously. "I meant what I said."

"I know." Charles shifted, bending, and gently pushed Erik's knees apart so he could kick his feet over Erik's thighs and brace them at his hips. He leaned forward, thighs resting on top of Erik's. "It's not why I took you to dinner, either."

Erik's fingers immediately curled at Charles' ankles, rub-slipping up under the pant hems. Is that so.

"Yes!" Charles protested. "I thought it only polite. I don't like when people eat alone."

"So I'm your latest charity project, then." Erik sighed dramatically, fingertips rubbing into Charles' calf. "I see how it is."

Charles huffed at him and tapped him once on the nose. "You're awful."

"You're supposed to be nice to charity projects," Erik reminded.

"Awful." Charles shifted his leg over and made to step off the couch. "I will leave you to your awfulness, yes?"

Erik reached over, let his palm drop over Charles' thigh. "I wish you wouldn't."

Charles paused mid-step, one leg off the couch, and had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from making inappropriate noise. "All right," he sighed, mock-defeated, and went to carefully arrange himself around Erik.

"Mm," Erik snagged Charles' wrist lightly, his tone lax, but his gaze sharp. "I'm cold, Charles." He tugged at him a little, sliding down until his feet hit the opposite couch arm.

Charles stared down at Erik, who was suddenly and utterly taking up the entire couch. "It's summer," he huffed, but slid down until he was lying on Erik, cheek pressed into the crook of his shoulder, arms curled around his neck. "You are very forward."

"I'm a couch stealer," Erik muttered, settling with a pleased sigh. "I wiggle in and steal the couch from people. It's a talent I've perfected in the surgeon's lounge."

"You wiggle," Charles echoed, blindsided by this side of Erik. He slipped his knee between Erik's legs for better balance and let himself relax.

"Got the couch from you, didn't I?" Erik's voice caught mid-sentence when Charles' leg slipped between his own. He explained distractedly, "My mother liked cats. They have the right idea about furniture and sunspots."

"As in, it's all theirs until they graciously allow another to sit there?" Charles murmured, breathing in slow and deep, one hand finding Erik's side and gently rucking up his sweatshirt to press two fingers to his skin.

"Wait until someone warms it up for you, and then steal it." Erik draped an arm over Charles' back, stroking down. He pressed his face to Charles' hair, eyes fluttering shut.

Charles leaned into Erik's hand, letting out a soft noise. He pressed his whole hand to Erik's side, just under the curve of his ribcage. "You're ridiculous."

Erik took a deep breath, slow to feel Charles' hand shift along his skin. "I dislike the feel of leather when it's cool." He parted his legs and let Charles slip down against him, one foot dropping off the couch.

Charles went quiet as Erik shifted his legs and Charles fitted into the v of them. He found Erik's ribs and traced them one at a time, pads of his fingers rubbing along the curves. "I don't... normally do this," he laughed softly.

Erik twisted gentle with the path of Charles' fingers, his hand slipping under Charles' shirt to smooth the small of his back. "Sometimes it's all I have time for." The confession was half-warning - another reminder of how involved he was with his work.

The sudden slide of cool fingers up his back made Charles gasp, breath sapping from him. He squirmed, fingers digging into Erik's side. "Do you -- is it all you want?"

"No," He said simply and rested his cheek against Charles' temple. Erik stroked higher, nails scraping down the line of Charles' back.

Charles leaned into him, intent on saying something sweet, but Erik robbed him of words, the slide of his nails wringing a moan from Charles. Jesus, Erik.

Erik licked along the curve of his ear, laughter humming in his chest. "That's lovely. I like that." He lifted his hand and drew another line over Charles' back.

Charles jerked his hand up, both arms wrapping around Erik's neck, his skin prickling. "You are singlehandedly the -- the most ridiculous person I have ever met."

"You say such nice things to me," Erik said, voice hushed with amusement and the space between them. He settled his palms over the curves of Charles' shoulders, his thumbs rubbing in soft circles.

The nicest, Charles said, warm and soft in Erik's head, because he didn't quite trust his actual voice yet. He went lax over Erik, could feel his heart beating against his own chest.

Erik shuddered at the heat of Charles' mental voice, surprised at the spike of warmth that echoed in his belly. He curled tighter around Charles, slightly baffled.

Hmm? Charles fitted himself into the curl of Erik's body, rubbed his cheek into the crook of his shoulder.

Again, and oh, that was a pleasant surprise about himself. Erik swallowed hard, shifting under Charles' body. Didn't say anything.

Charles's lips twitched into a smile. You're thinking it, he teased, remembering his nanny's tone of voice every time she'd say the same thing (often).

Wasn't thinking anything. Except about how apparently Erik had a telepath kink, but how was he supposed to know that even existed? He let his hands drift a little, wandering along Charles' sides.

A telepath kink, Charles said, amused and reading it straight from Erik's thoughts. I've never heard that one before.

Oh, Jesus. Erik buried his face in Charles' shoulder, cheeks burning. That's not fair.

Charles shifted, burying the fingers of one hand in the hair at the nape of Erik's neck. What about this gets to you? he asked, genuinely curious.

"I don't know," Erik muttered, still slightly mortified. It's not all the time, just when you sound... He pushed a feeling at Charles - warm and smoky, uncurling.

Intimate, Charles summed up, smoothing a hand down Erik's stomach.

Yes, all right. Erik arched a little, giving Charles room. You've caught me.

Maybe it's different when I touch you, he mused. His hand dipped under his sweatshirt to palm Erik's bare skin. The same shock rippled through him, but nowhere near as powerful as the day before.

"Is it?" Erik smoothed his hand through Charles' hair and left a kiss at his temple.

You tell me, Charles murmured, tipping his head to the side. "My turn to be forward," he said out loud. "There's more room in the bedroom."

"I could be literal just to annoy you," Erik told him, "But I'd much rather take advantage of said room." He loosened his hold on Charles so he could stand.

Charles bit his shoulder in retaliation and climbed off him, scooping the candle into one hand and leading Erik through the kitchen and down the hallway to his room. He set the candle on the bedside table and stripped off his shirt, not so much shameless as just... unself-conscious.

Erik trailed behind and watched the shift of Charles' body, finding the supple bend of him as interesting when he stooped to set the candle down. Erik tugged off Charles' sweatshirt and left it on a chair, coming up behind him to press his lips against Charles' nape.

Charles sucked in a quiet breath and leaned back into Erik, one hand slipping back to rest on the curve of his hip, the other coming up so he could bury his fingers in Erik's hair. I really hadn't intended to seduce you.

Erik sucked softly at a soft patch of skin just over Charles' shoulder and sighed at him. Intended or not, it worked. He slid his hand around, smoothing over Charles' belly.

I must have more tricks up my sleeve than even I knew,
Charles murmured, pitching his mental voice low, the way Erik had showed him. He arched back against Erik, making a noise like a cat.

Erik choked a little, his stomach dropping hotly. He turned Charles around, hands coming up to cup his face and pull him into a rough kiss. Dirty enabler.

Charles gasped low into Erik's mouth and tightened his fingers, holding Erik there. You love it, he purred, surprising himself with his boldness.

Erik pressed his teeth into Charles' lip, some hoarse sound dragging out of him. More tricks, indeed.

You're just so very susceptible to them,
Charles decided, stepping backwards until his back was pressed to the wall and Erik was up against him.

Erik followed through on the direction, hips pressing tight against Charles and one arm blocking him in on one side. "You're tricky. I like that." He slipped his other arm around Charles' waist with his fingers digging tight into the round of his shoulder.

Charles glanced sideways at the arm bracketing him in. "Seems I'm not the only one," he murmured, and leaned bodily into Erik to pull him in for a kiss. What else do you like?

This. I like this.
Erik opened his mouth for him, thumb pressing at the corner seam of Charles' lips. I like.. He thought about the taste of desperation, and palmed Charles' hip. Here, against the wall.

Charles whined, pushing against him just to feel Erik's weight holding him still. You want to...?

Erik widened his stance a little, his hips grinding just barely against the line of Charles' thigh. I can lift you. Hold you here.

Charles made a noise like he'd been punched and lifted one thigh, his hand finding Erik's and sliding it under the curve as he hitched it on Erik's hip. You're sure? I wouldn't want my lamp broken.

I'll get you a new one.
Erik licked under Charles jaw and ended with a bite by his ear. He lifted Charles fairly easily, stepping foward when he could, slotting his hips under Charles' raised thighs and pressing in. Erik licked at Charles' collar again.

Charles's throat worked like he was going to say something, but he just let his head thunk back against the wall, his hands slipping on Erik's shoulders as he slid his arms around his neck. Good lord.

Fuck, he swore absently. Erik let his lips curve in the hollow of Charles' throat, breathing warm while he rolled his hips up against him.

Fingers digging into Erik's shoulders, Charles bowed forward, his spine curving as his stomach pressed to the flat of Erik's. Yes, yes, like that.

Erik keened slightly and gasped against Charles' skin. "Should've-" one hand dropped lower, fingertips dipping down the back waistband of Charles' sweats. "Shit."

"Ah -- Yes, hold on." Charles dropped one leg, staggering to his feet and using Erik's shoulder for balance. He turned the moment he was safe on his feet and pinned Erik to the wall, hands sliding up Erik's arms to extend them above his head. Gotcha.

Erik blinked, then grinned, canting his hips forward. Unbutton me and I'll shimmy them off.

Charles leaned in, let his lips hover a breath from Erik's. Say please.

Erik leaned down, just enough to brush his lips against Charles when he spoke. "Please, Charles. Undo me."

Charles moaned without meaning to, licking into Erik's mouth. Clever, he whispered, voice light and smoky. He danced his fingers along Erik's waistband, like he was going to unbutton the sleek black dress pants, then winked and stepped back instead, one hand on his hip as he appraised Erik's body.

The word was like a whispered reward and Erik's skin tingled with it. His head dropped back against the wall when Charles pulled away, and as much as he wanted to reach down and take care of things himself, he knew that's not how it was supposed to go. Erik rolled his hips in the air instead, seeking purchase where there was none.

Charles licked his lips, watching Erik's hips circle. You are, he thought, aborting it halfway through because he didn't know what. He dropped to his knees, pressed his cheek to Erik's thigh. Now, what did you want?

Erik laughed, half-startled. "Me? Charles, you're not going to have your merry way with me?" He left his hands where they were, raised up against the wall. It was difficult, with Charles' cheek on his thigh.

Would you like me to?
Charles found the snap of Erik's slacks with his teeth and tugged, loosing it.

Erik nudged forward against Charles' mouth, quietly watching him. Was he always that considerate? Did he need the guidance? Erik huffed softly, briefly licked across his lower lip. I want your mouth on me. And then I want you back up here, where we were.

Charles huffed a soft laugh, dragging his zipper down. I don't need guidance, Erik, I just like making you ask. He sat back on his heels, expectant.

Picky about manners. I see.
Erik popped out one hip and slowly rotated his hips to jut the other. A ripple of his body followed after, and some quick showy shifting until his suit pants slid down his thighs.

Maybe one day I'll have you well-trained enough that I won't have to be picky
, Charles said promptly. Somewhere in the back of his mind he was thoroughly embarrassed, but he had no mind to pay attention to it. He brought his hands up to smooth over Erik's hips, tugging his pants the rest of the way down and sliding two fingers under the arch of one foot to get him to lift it.

Erik's eyes flashed dark at the idea, carefully not forming any concrete thought on the matter. He lifted each foot when prompted, palms pressed against the wall above him to hold his weight. As a test, he murmured a thank you afterwards.

The soft thanks made heat pool in Charles's stomach. Good, he praised, prompted Erik to lift his other foot and tossed his slacks away, into another wall. So I see you have no comment?

Erik pursed his lips and sighed quietly. He gazed down at Charles and half-smiled. It wasn't a question.

Charles tilted his head, smirking. What wasn't?

Your plans.

My plans concerning what?

My compliance.

Compliance,
Charles said dryly. I don't think that was the word I used.

Erik's cheek almost twitched into a full smile. Forgive me. Your plans in regards to my training.

Charles grinned up at him, smoothed his hands up the backs of his thighs. His fingers caught occasional scars, but Charles let them run under his fingers, smooth and easy. Well?

Erik's fingers clenched and unclenched, a nervous shift. Please?

The movement was almost out of Charles's range of vision, but he caught the tail end of it and smoothed one hand up to gently stroke his fingers between Erik's. All right?

Yes he thought automatically. Erik was simply unsure of what Charles wanted next. He let his fingers close loose around Charles' relaxing a bit into the contact.

Charles watched him a moment longer to be sure, then arched up and pressed his mouth to Erik's belly, licking down to the cut of one hip. You're nervous.

Game changed
, Erik thought vaguely. He sighed light and slouched back against the wall, watching the drift of Charles' head below him.

He didn't mean to dig, he didn't, but Erik's tone of voice had changed too. You've done it before.

A simple, yes Charles was all that was given.

Charles sighed and stood, pressed a kiss to the center of Erik's chest. He found Erik's eyes in the dark, pressed his thumb gently to the corner of one, silently offering.

Erik knew better than to push on if they were going to play the game proper. He let his arms drift down from where he'd been keeping them pressed to the wall. "I should explain."

"If you'd like," Charles said lightly. "I won't -- " He wiggled his fingers near his temple and padded over to sit on the bed.

Erik flushed lightly and his gaze slid across to the far wall. "It might be easier if you do-" He mimicked the hand wiggle.

Charles bit the inside of his lip. "Come here," he said quietly, shifting back to lie down.

Erik joined Charles on the bed, sliding into place beside him on top of the sheets. He pressed a warm cheek to Charles' shoulder and breathed in, eyes falling closed.

Charles turned, slipped an arm under Erik's head and curled him in. "You're sure?"

"It's either this, or don't talk about it," Erik told him. He pressed up against Charles, trying to find shelter in his smaller frame. So, yes.

...If you want me to stop, tell me
. Charles tightened his arm, holding Erik close, and raised his free hand to find the pulse in his temple. He concentrated, pressing gently into Erik's mind and searching, paging back years.

Erik pushed the memories hesitantly forward, knowing distantly that he had to think of them to help Charles find them. It blossomed up, the old hurts - Shaw, with his dimpled smile and the gleam of his glasses in the overhead lighting, the parties, with human furniture, Erik among them, his first time in the scene. Then, a troubled sequence of Shaw's private parties, with Erik as his pet by then, collared and cuffed, sometimes roped in shibari style, and the party game that Shaw favoured - one silver coin pushed up the body of some stranger using his tongue. /_One... two... three_../

Charles gasped as he broke away, the bone-deep sense of shame rocketing through him. He forced himself to breathe, to separate his memories out from Erik's, to pull his mind out. He tightened his arm around Erik, hugging him close. Erik.

Charles.
Erik didn't have much else to say, cheeks wet and shaking against him. He hadn't expected remembering to be so intense, but there was something about Charles looking in on it that made him feel like he had been reliving the entire period.

Erik, Charles said again, concerned this time at Erik's shaking. He curled on his side, pulled Erik up against him. I didn't -- realize, I'm sorry.

"I thought I was past that," Erik gasped. He reached out for Charles, tangling against him. "I haven't thought- Not for a long time."

Charles wrapped both arms around him, slid a leg over his hip. "I'm sorry," he murmured. "I'm sorry, Erik, I didn't know it would be so vivid for you."

Erik pressed in for a kiss, messy and desperate against Charles' mouth. "It's fine. I'm fine." His eyes were squeezed shut.

You're not fine, Charles said softly, leaving a kiss at the corner of Erik's mouth. Erik, look at me.

Erik took a second to shudder together, and blinked a look at him.

Charles was staring at him with a mix of concern and something like fondness. "That's right," he murmured. Calm down for me.

The thought was so...something. It almost started Erik off again. He sucked in a breath, brushed a hand over his face. All right.

Charles curled against him, left a kiss behind his ear. "He was your teacher?"

"My first, yes." Erik wrapped around Charles, sliding a leg over his calf.

Charles rubbed down Erik's side, making the same noise he used to use to calm his mother's horses. "You did -- " He hesitated, trying to be delicate. "You did like it."

"The private things," Erik clarified flatly, "Yes. Quite a bit."

Charles nodded. "But he made you go out. To parties."

Erik squirmed slightly. "It...was my decision."

"It was?" Charles tilted his head, fingers tracing Erik's ribs.

"He asked. I went."

"You didn't like it."

Erik opened his mouth. Closed it. Opened it again. "No."

Charles watched him a moment longer, then gently pressed him back and curled up to his side. "All right."

Erik felt the need to explain, even if Charles hadn't asked. I liked the attention. His attention. Not everyone's.

Charles nodded. "I understand," he said softly, smoothing a palm down Erik's chest. "You don't have to justify, Erik."

Erik settled back down, rested his face in the crook of Charles' neck. Not what you bargained for, am I, Charles. He left an apologetic kiss over his skin.

Don't you apologize,
Charles snapped, his own vehemence surprising himself. I like you as you are.

Erik flinched back, the back of his neck burning. All right.

Charles softened immediately, curling his hand around Erik's upper arm. No, don't -- Erik, he mumbled, embarrassed. Come here.

Erik let himself be pulled forward and sank against Charles again. He carefully didn't say or think anything again, and let his eyes drift shut.

Charles took to stroking Erik's side, from his shoulder to the dip in his side, until the electric snapped back on with a whir from all the electric devices in the room. Charles carefully extracted himself from Erik and went to turn off all the lights and the coffeepot.

Erik was playing with the zip on his pants when Charles returned, having made it as far as to pick them up, but not as far to put them on. He was not normally so unsettled, opened to someone, and was finding it difficult to place himself back on steady ground. The rain was down to a trickle. His jacket was likely dry. The last bus out of the area was in twenty minutes.

Charles had a cup of coffee in his hand, what had been left, and he offered it to Erik, eyeing his hands. "Leaving?"

"I hadn't planned to," Erik admitted. By now he had hoped to either be blissed out, or sleeping on the couch in the living room. He leaned over and blew the campfire candle out, watching the smoke swirl up.

"Good." Charles pressed the cup into Erik's hand and nodded toward a door situated in the corner of the room. "That's the shower. It's all yours, all right?" It was an offer to give him space, give him time.

Erik considered it for a moment, made a face as he set the coffee aside. "Come with me," he murmured low. He left a hand drifting down Charles' arm, questioning.

"Erik," Charles said, about to refuse, to let him have the time if he needed it. He couldn't; instead, he slipped his hand into Erik's and leaned into his shoulder. As you wish.

Erik slipped an arm around him and pulled Charles in for a light kiss. It's all right, please. He backed up, pushing the door open with a thought, and pulling them both inside.

Somewhat convinced, Charles followed him in, pressing light kisses to the back of his shoulder as they went. He flicked half the lights on, just the ones over the actual shower stall, and tilted his chin up to press his lips under Erik's jaw.

Erik hummed and tipped his head back, lazily turning on the faucets with his powers. He pushed his briefs off his hips and nudged down Charles' sweats before turning and checking the temperature.

Charles stripped down while Erik had his back turned. It was very hard not to stare. You're very hard not to stare at, he said, echoing his own thoughts.

Erik smiled privately to himself and stepped beneath the spray. All that swimming pays off, then. He let the water wash over him and then turned to wave Charles in. His own gaze lingered a moment, sweeping down over Charles appreciatively.

Charles fluttered his hands at Erik's stare, stepping in after him and sliding the glass door closed. Most definitely. He tilted his head back, catching the spray dusting off Erik.

Erik pulled Charles back, tugging him close to watch the water slide off him, clear pearls over his skin. Erik licked over Charles' cheek, tugged his fingers back through his hair.

Charles went easy with his direction, tipping his head back to bare his throat to Erik. The fading in his sight was more noticeable here, with the white walls and bright lights. He pushed the thought away and stroked up Erik's side, fingertips slipping.

Erik scraped his teeth along Charles' neck, left a kiss at the base of his throat. The water was calming, a familiar friend in the face of what he'd shared with Charles. Erik sighed in the steam and smoothed his fingers over Charles' temples. Thank you.

For? Charles murmured, eyes sliding closed. He leaned bodily into Erik, resting his forehead in the crook of Erik's neck.

Just, thank you. Erik sighed again. He thought maybe Charles didn't quite understand what had happened to him, but he at least wasn't spurning him for it.

Of course, Charles murmured. He pulled back, slid a hand up to palm Erik's cheek. You think I'd turn you away for that?

Perhaps. Erik turned his face to Charles' palm, hands drifting down to settle at his waist. But I find you constantly surprise me.

Charles's eyebrows raised. Is that so? He pressed a thumb to the swell of Erik's bottom lip, slid his free arm around Erik's neck and pulled him round so Charles was in the spray.

Erik sucked Charles' thumb lightly into his mouth and let it slip free. He rested back against the glass, bangs dripping into his face. Yes, sir.

Charles's eyes flickered closed, fingers curling in an effort to control himself. He slicked the water from his eyes and pulled Erik to him for a kiss. You're good, he praised quietly, letting his hand rest on the side of Erik's neck. The lights flickered once, then twice. Charles dipped back, retrieving soap. "Best finish before they decide to go out again."

Erik glowed with the praise, a feeling he snuffed after a moment of treasuring it. He nodded in agreement to Charles' suggestion and picked up shampoo to lather through his hair.

The lights stayed on, surprisingly. Charles climbed out of the shower first and went to dig around for towels. He managed to find two (thankfully; was rather bad with laundry) and passed one off to Erik as he trailed out into his bedroom to find a pair of boxers.

Erik pulled his briefs off the floor and wandered out to the bedroom, still towelling himself dry. He felt steadier, more himself, and he stretched languidly at the foot of the bed.

Charles had tugged his boxers on and was relighting the candle. He cast Erik a fond glance and let himself sprawl out lengthwise across the top of the bed, one hand resting light on the cut of Erik's hip. Better, aren't you.

Erik rolled into him, offering a half-smile. Feeling so. He tipped his face against the curve of Charles' shoulder and breathed in the clean smell of him.

Charles hummed out a laugh, dragging his fingers across Erik's ribs and letting him move in close. May I ask -- your tattoo?

Erik laughed soft, with a bit of good-natured wincing. "It's in extremely poor taste, really. I was very drunk one night, during med-school. Woke up with the tattoo, along with my classmates." He sighed a little. Slaves to medicine.

"It's interesting," Charles said, pulling Erik's wrist up so he could thumb over it. "At least it's not someone's name, yes? Or a unicorn."

Letting his hand flop open, Erik laughed lightly. "Or both. But I doubt I'd ever think to ask for something like that while blitzed."

Charles curled his hand under Erik's and lifted it to his mouth, his lips pressed to the center of Erik's palm. "I can't imagine you drunk."

Erik thumbed at the corner of Charles' eye, his own crinkling in a smile. "Me neither. I never remember. And I'm too old for that anymore."

Chalres laughed, startled. "How old are you?"

Erik wiped his brow, playing it up a little. "I've descended into my thirties."

"Such tragedy," Charles intoned, nipping at the heel of Erik's hand and releasing it. Quieter, "I'm twenty-seven."

"So young," Erik said, perhaps a touch too seriously. He leaned in to kiss the corner of Charles' mouth. "Mm."

Charles turned into it, met his eyes, his own just slightly out of focus and very blue. "Does it concern you?"

Erik laughed lightly. "No, Charles." He tipped his head against his. Age, especially something like five years, wasn't an issue.

"Don't laugh at me!" Charles huffed, his smile mischievous. He turned and slid up the bed so he could slide under the blankets. "Come here before I leave you out to freeze."

"You'd only make yourself sad if you did that." Erik slid up to join him anyway, and wriggled under the sheets with him.

"Would not." Charles curled on his side, back to Erik. "I'd be able to have the bed to myself again."

"Sleeping on the couch would be a better fate for me then," Erik said mildly. He reached out to stroke his hand down Charles's back.

Charles's breath caught and he arched forward, spine curving concave. "Unfair."

"Can't help it." Erik shuffled forward to leave a kiss on the closest plane of his back.

Charles pressed back into him, making a noise low in his throat. "You could," he accused, softly teasing. "You simply lack the self-control."

Would I want that kind of control, I wonder.
Erik sucked at the soft skin of his nape, nosing into his hair.

Erik, Charles mumbled, unable to come up with a coherent response. He slid a leg back, hooked his ankle around Erik's to hold him there.

Erik wound his arm under Charles', his palm spreading flat up and over his chest to hold him. He nipped lightly, lips dropping down Charles' shoulder. Would you, I wonder.

Charles went quiet in his arms, handed everything over neatly and gave himself to whatever Erik would do. I want you as you are, I think.

Erik eased a pleased sigh and a slow bite into the meat of Charles' shoulder before slipping down his back. He licked carefully at the path of his spine, dropping kisses here and there.

The mood shifted again, something slow and intangible. Charles rolled onto his stomach, folded his arms under his cheek. What will you do with me? he thought vaguely, shivering as his back lit with pleasure.

Erik dropped curious fingers to dip at the curve of Charles' side and mouthed his way to the small of his back. He smiled at Charles' thought; didn't answer.

Charles curled forward a little, tucking his knees up and curving his back into Erik's mouth. Tease, he murmured, amused and with heat twisting the word.

Only if I don't follow through, yes?
Erik flicked his tongue down, lapping light at the pucker of skin the vanished beneath Charles' boxers.

Charles sucked in a breath, fingers curling in his sheets and rippling them. Yes, he finally agreed, after searching for an argument and finding none of them viable.

Erik inched Charles' boxers down, tongue slipping between the cleft of his cheeks and then back up again. His thoughts were heavy, warm even in his own mind. Tell me what to do.

Charles inched forward and then rolled onto his back, hand raising to press to Erik's jaw. Kiss me.

Erik did, leaning in with his eyes fluttering shut, his own hands hanging uselessly between them. He kissed soft, hungry, drawing out the ones he could.

Charles was mostly thinking that Erik was probably the best kisser he'd ever come across, but somewhere the logical part of his brain kicked in and when Erik pulled back, Charles curled against his chest. If we do this, it's not going to be all the time. Not like it was with him.

Erik's gut dropped for a moment before he registered what Charles was saying. All right He smoothed a hand down Charles' arm. Yes.

You have as much a say in it as I do.
Charles stroked his chest, curled in the curve of his arm.

I don't want it all the time
he admitted. Erik simply...liked the idea of giving himself to Charles.

Charles smiled, nipped the hollow of his throat. What do you want?

Erik bit at the inside of his lip. Thinking about what he'd /liked/ made his pulse beat hard in his throat. Attention. Praise. When I deserve it.

I can give you all that.
Charles ran a finger down the line of his jaw. Gladly, Erik.

Erik swallowed with the motion. What do you want?

Charles leaned back, hummed in thought. I want you to feel safe with me.

It was a strange request, and it startled Erik for a moment. And?

Charles blinked up at him. That's it, he said, sounding confused.

That's... all you want?

Yes?
The lilt made it sound almost like a question, Charles's expression the same.

Erik kissed him once and then again, a little tighter. "All right."

Charles leaned into him. That surprises you.

"You do that regularly," Erik said with a laugh.

"I'm beginning to notice." Charles arched an eyebrow at him. "I'm not all that much of an enigma, honestly."

Erik wouldn't use that word to describe Charles, but he hummed instead and pressed up against him. If trust was what Charles was after, he was already doing just fine to get it.

Charles slid an arm around him, glowing with the knowledge that Erik was already comfortable with him. "We should -- probably sleep," he mumbled with no small amount of chagrin. "Surgery and all."

"Yes," Erik agreed, and curled into him. "You'll be in good hands tomorrow, I promise you."

"I know." Charles squeezed his shoulders, tugged the blankets up. "Sleep."


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


The smell of antiseptic seeps into everything at the hospital. Charles noticed it the moment he walked in on that first day, when he had no idea where he'd be two days later.

It was... different, waking up next to someone, both of them groggy and neither of them incredible morning people. Pleasantly different, but different all the same.

Charles was awake. He could tell. His consciousness flickered in and out until it caught on something and stayed. He blinked once, then twice. Couldn't see anything. Thought, Of course, they've bandaged my eyes. He lay still, listening to the soft beeps of his heart monitor. It was too much right now to reach out, so instead of casting telepathically, he shifted, fingers rubbing into the standard sheets, and mumbled, "Hello?"

Erik startled awake, his glasses going askew when he jerked up from his resting place at Charles' bedside. As promised, he'd been at the surgery, lurking in the observation window over an annoyed Emma Frost's shoulder.

The Sodoku book slipped from Erik's lap when he reached over to grasp Charles' hand. "I'm here. How do you feel?"

"All right," Charles said, surprised and -- he wouldn't lie -- delighted to find Erik there. "You stayed?"

"Night shift," he explained. Admittedly, doing a poor job of it, but Frost was nothing if not true to her own name. Erik owed her.

"Are you experiencing any pain?" Erik touched a hand lightly to Charles' arm, and then his cheek.

Charles shook his head, brought his hand up to circle Erik's wrist. "I'm fine, really." He shifted, felt the pull of an IV in his arm. "It went well?"

"The surgery went well. Do you feel up to checking how your vision is?" Erik thumbed over Charles' cheek, just below the bandages.

"Yes," Charles breathed. He let Erik's wrist go, tilted his head into Erik's touch. Nervousness rippled through him, and he smoothed his hands on the sheets, bottom lip bitten between his teeth.

Erik carefully undid the gauze and unwound it from around Charles' eyes until he was holding the whole of it. He produced a penlight from his pocket and shone it in his eyes, watching the lazy unfocus of Charles' pupils. "Charles?"

"Yes?" Charles's voice shook. Were there smaller bandages over each eye? Patches? Were his eyes not open? He blinked, squinted with his eyes definitely closed, and then opened them again. "Erik," he said, more panicked. "The bandage is off, right?"

Erik's stomach dropped. He flashed the light again, though there wasn't any way Charles wouldn't have seen it. "The...light Charles? The bandage is off."

"What light?" Legitimate panic swirled in Charles's stomach. There was no way. Erik had said the surgery was fine, he was fine, he was supposed to be able to see.

Erik gritted his teeth. This was his fault, he should've done the surgery. Maybe then Charles would still- "I'm sorry, Charles. The surgery was without complications. I'll have to do tests to find out why you can't-"

Charles sucked in a breath, thumbs and forefingers rubbing together as he tried to calm himself down. You're blind, a voice echoed, and for once it actually was his own, somewhere in the back of his mind. "Oh god," he murmured. "Oh my god."

Erik withdrew his hands miserably, his fingertips trailing light as they dropped. "I'll give you a moment." He fumbled for the call box, and tipped it up against Charles' knee "If- if you need anything."

"No -- No, don't." Charles grabbed for his hand, fingers curling tight around his wrist. "Don't leave. I need you here." He lay back, chin tipped up, eyes squeezed shut.

Erik aborted his escape and hesitated. The door shut and locked at a thought, and erik eased himself up onto the edge of the bed. "All right," he murmured.

Erik's weight was becoming familiar -- and comforting. Charles had always prided himself at his cool head in awful situations, at his ability to rein in his own emotion and focus on other people. It unnerved him now that he couldn't, and he kept his grip on Erik's wrist until he was calm enough to realize he could move, give Erik more room. "This, um," he murmured, thumb rubbing anxiously at the heel of Erik's palm. "How likely is it that this is permanent?"

In response, Erik slipped his arm around Charles shoulders and moved into the space provided. "Almost certainly," he said carefully. "It's why I was anxious to get you in surgery."

Charles leaned heavily into Erik, head tipping forward until he was resting his cheek on Erik's chest. "So." He pulled his bottom lip between his teeth. "I'm -- blind. And it's permanent."

"I can't officially confirm until I do some tests." It was a doctor's answer, vague without test results. Erik rubbed over Charles' temple and sighed into his hair. "I'm sorry."

"That means yes," Charles laughed, though it wasn't really funny and his laugh was kind of hollow. He pressed into Erik, maybe clung to him a little. "It's not your fault."

Erik had to wonder, but it was the compulsion of any doctor failing to help someone. "I'm still sorry. Is there anyone you need to call, Charles? You may be here for a few more days." He held Charles a little tighter and curled around him.

Charles shook his head. "I -- no." He was going to expand, going to explain that he and his mother no longer spoke, that his stepdad had taken off, that he didn't really keep friends, more a varied and entirely large group of acquaintances -- but he was tired. "No, I'm fine."

Erik eased Charles against himself and settled fully on the bed. Quietly he said, "I'll need to put the bandages back on for overnight."

"Is there a point?" Charles murmured, not clipped or aggravated or rude, just... aware. What am I going to do, go blind? He couldn't bring himself to say it out loud, and a moment later there was a familiar hot pricking at the backs of his eyes -- at least that still works, he thought sardonically -- and he was muffling any noise in Erik's lab coat, fingers curling in his lapel.

"Charles," erik murmured, not quite reprimanding, just...with concern. He stroked his hands through Charles' hair and down his back. The gauze is to protect against infection. He tried to keep the thought gentle. When you're ready.

Charles tightened his fingers until the knuckles turned white, his face pressed to Erik's chest. His eyes ached a little, behind them, like he'd strained them, but he ignored it. I'm sorry, I don't -- I'm sorry.

Easy, it's all right. Erik pressed a kiss to the top of Charles' head, one hand easing around his. He repeated, when you're ready.

Charles took his time, gave himself the moments he needed to calm down, be rational. He pulled back after a while, traced his fingers up until he found Erik's jaw, and turned his head for a kiss. Thank you.

Erik kissed him sweetly, perhaps a little too apologetic on his part. I haven't done anything. You should get some rest, Charles.

You've done enough. Charles pressed a finger to his lips and shifted away, leaning back on one hand. You, ah, you have to go, don't you. You're on shift.

Erik curled his fingers to indicate him back to his side. They'll page if they need me. Come get some rest.

Charles went with the gentle pull of Erik's fingers. You've done enough for me, he protested, but he was already curling into Erik's chest, an arm slipping over his stomach.

I'm not asking as your doctor, now. Erik carefully arranged the drape of Charles' arm, adjusting th IV pull. "Please rest."

I wasn't talking about you as my doctor, Charles corrected. He blinked again, almost to make sure, and fitted himself to Erik's side. You've been amazing. And you -- you hardly know me.

"You've seen the shame of me," erik said quietly. How could I leave you now?

Charles huffed out a soft noise and tucked himself under Erik's chin. "There are many people who would."

Erik cradled a hand to Charles' nape. There is more to you than your sight, Charles.

I realize
. Charles leaned back a little, into his hand. Wake me if you have to leave, please.

He murmured, "I will."


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



The hospital released Charles three days later. Erik and two other doctors ran a full spectrum of tests and they all came up conclusive -- Charles was blind. Whatever had gone wrong during the surgery couldn't be fixed, repaired, or undone.

The first thing he did, when he was sure he could talk about it without Erik there, was to call the university. There was no way for him to keep his job, not now, but it wasn't like he didn't have the money to support himself without a job. The loss of it ached, and with it came the realization that he could no longer read.

Still, three days later, he was being released and was in the throes of a mild panic attack. The idea of being alone at home terrified him a bit more than he expected it to.

A nurse had come in and was gently removing his IV and patching his arm when the door clicked open and the nurse said (somewhat nervously), "Doctor Lehnsherr! He's all prepped and ready, the release forms are here..."

"Thank you, Ms Taylor," erik said easily. He scribbled his signature through th stack and stepped inside to collect Charles. "I'll take it from here. Mr Xavier?" Erik offered his arm with a slight touch to Charles' elbow.

Charles's lips twitched into a smile at the unfamiliar formality. He slipped his hand into the bend of Erik's elbow and let himself be led from the room, appreciating the way Erik slowed his steps, let Charles set the pace. They're quite wary of you, aren't they.

Haven't the faintest why.
Erik brushed his fingers lightly over the hand at his elbow and leveled a warning look at a group of nurses huddled around the nurses station, obviously waiting to see them leave.

Charles stuck close to Erik's side, glad now at their easy and sudden connection -- it would have been awkward to have someone he wasn't intimately aware of doing this for him. He hears the chatter of miscellaneous women and then a soft hush as they pass. "Erik, are you glaring?"

By the time that Erik had answered, they were out the automatic doors and turning down the street. "No." He slipped his arm a little and brushed a hand against Charles' offering it instead of the curve of his elbow.

Charles curled his fingers through Erik's, half-laughing. "You were," he accused gently, leaning his head against Erik's shoulder. He left his eyes closed, which was slowly becoming habit. He still blinked out of reflex, and had come to realize that leaving his eyes open brought awkward silences. "Thank you, though. I didn't expect to be walked home."

Erik chose light humour over something that cut too close to his chest and left a kiss against Charles' forehead. "Apparently 'stalking patients home' isn't in the job description for the orderlies. I wasn't aware people actually read their job description."

"Stalking me now, hmm." Charles tipped his head up, surprised by the kiss. "It must be such a chore for you."

"Tedious," Erik agreed dryly. "I much prefer simply walking you home." He could think of worse things to do, and little few that were better.
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