Pairing - Charles/Erik
Summary - Charles puts on Etta James and teaches Erik how to slow dance. Self-indulgent fluff of the highest order.
WHAT AM I
A/N - If you are so inclined, you can simultaneously listen to the song in question while reading. (Right HERE.) Alternatively, if you are not so inclined, I hope you enjoy anyway. This is not songfic I promise I promise oh god I just used it as a source of inspiration I swear, okay
Charles chooses tonight to break out the good scotch.
Well. The best scotch, if he's going to be precise - which, of course, Charles always aspires to be. Nightly, he and Erik have taken the liberty of making every occasion an appropriate occasion for drinking fine liquor, getting smashed, and (as usually transpires) shagging each other’s brains out on the nearest piece of furniture. Tonight though, for for relatively inexplicable reasons, Charles is driven to choose something special, something particularly finer than the rest.
Not entirely inexplicable, though - the threat of war, the proximity of crisis: these things have loomed over him, pressing in on Charles' contentment for for days, maybe weeks; worries that creep up when Charles least expects them to, nearly paralyzing him. He doesn't know what he's up against, and that's the crux of the terror. But Charles feels it approaching in his very bones, like an oncoming thunderstorm - something is coming, that much is certain. What, exactly, is another story, untold and unwritten, inaccessible to both he and Erik.
For the evening - and just for this one evening (Charles has to ask himself if he's going soft, honestly, the ideas he's been having lately) he empties his consciousness of any such qualms, diluting his fear by focusing on his surroundings, his immediate circumstances. The here and now. The weight and heat of this moment, then the next, then the next -
He stands in the study. Past midnight. That afternoon had seen lovely weather, and everyone's subsequent progress had been remarkable. All (but two) are now asleep, probably exhausted; the mansion has gone quiet and still. Charles feels the buzz of success and the hum of the alcohol inside of him. On the opposite end of the room, Erik sits alone on a couch, one arm stretched over its frame, with his head rolled back, resting for a brief, silent moment. (Charles thinks, with a slight twist in his gut, that Erik has not experienced many brief, silent moments in his lifetime.) Erik's eyes are closed, and to Charles, he looks almost serene, alarmingly so.
Charles moves the needle against the record; music fills the room. He glances over his shoulder, back towards Erik. “You like this song, don’t you?”
Erik keeps his eyes closed, murmuring something noncommittal. Charles wants to cross the room, right then and there, wants to stroke the stubble of Erik’s face with the pads of his fingers, wants to brush his knuckles lightly down Erik’s jaw, wants to push back the flyaway strands from Erik’s forehead. “’s nice, I guess.”
Charles can tell that Erik is enjoying it, a hum visible in the curve of his throat, shoulders beginning to sway gently left and right, in slow, measured rhythm. “You guess,” he teases. “I think you love it.” In response, Erik just shrugs, the movement rolling through his body. He opens his eyes, directs his gaze over at where Charles is standing, beside the record player, looking him over with those fond, fond eyes, with something tender and affectionate and warm.
Sometimes, Charles wants Erik so badly he forgets to breathe.
“C'mere,” Charles says quietly. He holds out one hand, offering. May I have this - ?
Erik grimaces. "Oh God, Charles, I'm really not one for - "
"Come here," Charles says, even more quietly, but with force. He makes a little beckoning gesture, outstretched towards Erik.
Crossing the room with slow strides, Erik keeps his distance at first, quite reluctant to Charles' suggestion. Charles knows, without having to scavenge or search, that this is a new act to him, can't imagine that's he's ever done it before. Charles’ thumb latches around Erik’s wrist, pulling him in, keeping him in tow. Guarding himself, Erik remains stiff - from beneath his dark turtleneck, Charles can see the muscles in his neck straining. “Easy,” Charles murmurs, his smile coy. “There’s no need to look so somber.” So scared.
And it strikes Charles as almost funny, the dynamics of what sets him off and what does not. Erik, who asks Charles to shoot him in the head, without flinching or thinking twice, who tried to move a goddamn submarine on his own. That Erik is the same Erik who is frightened of small, quiet things – of kissing Charles in daylight, of holding his hand, of – god forbid - dancing.
So Charles allows Erik to go ahead and resist - shoulders tight, jaw set - only for a little while. After a few more bars of music, Charles snakes one arm around Erik’s waist, guiding him closer. With his free hand, Charles touches the thin lip of skin peeking out from under Erik’s collar, feels the heat of Erik's flesh. And, once Erik has relaxed a little, Charles folds Erik tighter into his arms, close enough to whisper against the curve of his ear.
“Finally,” Charles murmurs. “I get you all to myself.”
Twining their fingers together, he turns them in a steady circle, directs to the right. Leading with their outstretched, laced-together hands, he gently points them in the right direction. Vaguely, under his breath, Charles hears that he’s making small, percussive noises to the beat of the music -ba de dum ba da da da - losing himself in it, in Erik, in the comforting press of their bodies meandering about the room. Charles' eyes close, briefly, and it isn’t until Erik’s tight voice interrupts him that he is jolted out of his reverie.
Unbelievably, Erik is trying to make small talk. Charles can feel him tensing up again.
“Do you know,” Erik says, voice somewhat hoarse, as if he’s nervous - “that those stains on that couch are still visible? I noticed them just yesterday.”
"Oh, stop it," Charles goes pink and laughs, turning them gently in the other direction. "That’s not true; you can’t see a thing.”
The seat in question was where they had made love for the first time. Where Charles had closed a hand over one of Erik’s knees, and asked if it would be all right for him to kiss Erik’s mouth, and Erik had said, I don’t think I quite - and Charles had said, here, let me show you. It was where Erik had fitted Charles between his thighs, embraced him so tightly that their stomachs were flush against one another; where Erik had fumbled with the buttons of Charles’ shirt; where Charles kissed his way down Erik’s torso before taking him fully in his mouth, had made him shiver and shake and moan like no one else had done before.
(In the morning, Alex had found them, still naked and sleeping and clinging to one another. He just banged on the wood of the coffee table until they woke up, and requested – with one raised eyebrow – that they get a goddamn room next time, some people were trying to sleep last night. Charles had taken the liberty of wiping the discovery from his memory, later.)
Charles lets go of Erik’s hand, but keeps his grip around Erik’s waist, keeps moving them. “Besides,” Charles says airily. “No one’s said anything since then.”
"Yes, but someone might notice, someone else, or -"
“Erik,” Charles is stern. With his free hand, he presses his index finger to Erik’s lips, drags it slowly along the pink flesh. “None of that talk.”
Erik stops himself - perhaps because of the physical contact, the keen attention of Charles' fingertip. Or, perhaps it's because this is a unique attitude for Charles to assume - Charles isn’t the sort to let things go, to say, okay, let’s sweep this under the rug, take the evening off. Charles is only as smart as he is because of his constant, acute awareness, and as such he doesn’t shy away from conflict, isn't keen to shove things out of sight. So this, now, this ignoring, this pushing aside, this one, singular exception that Charles seems to be making – Erik reasons that, okay, maybe it’s all right to forego that talk for one evening, just one evening.
He relaxes against Charles, just a little more. The scotch feels warm in his belly - he already can't remember how many drinks either of them have had - and Charles’ hand feels warm at his hip, brushing the skin hidden beneath the knit of his shirt. Impulsively, he leans deeper into the touch, relishing the subtlety and security of the contact.
“Follow my lead,” Charles tells him. Erik tries. He steps on a few toes, bangs a few kneecaps, but they both make it out (relatively) unscathed. Charles can hear him mentally protesting, without having to speak at all - why do I have to follow, come on, not fair - but Erik ends up watching Charles' feet move with a determined reverence, gripping Charles' hand too tightly, holding him too close around the waist. That's good, Charles assures, and catches the briefest glimpse of something like a smile, not on Erik's mouth, but in his eyes, a quiet joy, a quiet moment, a quiet victory. He wants to be good at this, for Charles. He wants to do this stupid, ridiculous thing to showcase his affection, look at what I'm willing to do for you, so silly, I look like a fool, but I'm touching you, and you're touching me, and that's what matters -
And – just barely, just a dusting, a phantom of a touch - Erik feels Charles’ presence within his mind. Not seeking, not rooting, not trying to fix or control. Just there. It’s pleasant, easy, light. Charles watches Erik's expression change slowly with the realization, sees the muscles go slack, catches the slightest quiver of Erik's lower lip. Because Charles is showing him, in the best and most exact way Charles can, just how Erik is seen through Charles' eyes. The full bloom of his infatuation, the richness of his lust, the complexity of his attraction, the pull towards Erik's beauty and the the forgiveness of Erik's shortcomings - it's the recognition that Charles loves Erik, as a whole person, in all of his endeavors - Charles loves it when he tries to dance, and loves it equally when he falls out of rhythm.
Erik swallows, looking up at him. "That's," he says, throat tight.
“Erik,” Charles says softly, needing to say the name of his desire aloud, before pressing their lips together.
Slow and sweet, Erik’s mouth moves against his. Charles' tongue maps out the tastes and sensations of Erik’s own, every inch, every hidden place. Every nook, every nerve ending, Charles explores them all, slow, inquisitive, drawing out the moment as long as possible. He's kissed Erik's mouth so many times, but it always tastes so new, so fresh and wild. Like berries, smeared. Forbidden fruit, delicious.
And try as he might to cling to logic, to sanity, to the simple phenomenon of cause and effect - Charles can't bring himself to care about the consequences. He doesn't care about their fundamental differences of opinion, their exponentially frequent quarrels, the quiet imminence of their separation. Charles doesn't care that Erik is going to hurt him, eventually, someday (maybe soon, maybe years from now, maybe the next minute) or that he is going to hurt Erik. He doesn't care about power, about war, about challenging themselves, about being better men, leading a cause, holding to his own. He doesn't care.
Because tonight - even if it's only tonight - he has Erik in his arms, and they are dancing, and that is everything.
“I am going,” Charles coos, dizzy from the prolonged kiss, “to carry you up the stairs to bed. It will be terribly romantic.”
Erik can’t help but snort, the traces of a smile creeping onto his features. “Good luck with that one. You’ll make it halfway to the staircase before you drop me on my head.”
“What – you think I’m weak? Ah, Erik, you underestimate me again.”
“You’ve got several glasses of scotch under your belt,” Erik reasons evenly. A quarter of the way to the stairs would’ve been a more apt estimate.”
“At least I can still keep time with you.”
Erik's rare smile spreads wider. “That you can - barely.”
And, even when the record is over - Erik continues to move against him, face buried in the crook of Charles’ neck, stepping in time, in silence. He clings to Charles' body, far closer than when they had started, as if in that short time, some sort of need was either formed or realized. “Still planning on carrying me?” Erik asks eventually, voice distant and muffled.
“We could take turns,” Charles says wistfully, almost a whisper. He works his fingers through the strands at the back of Erik’s neck, taking his time. “We could carry each other.”
“That sounds ridiculous,” Erik admits, after considering it for a moment. “Carrying each other.”
“Utterly illogical,” says Charles. Although – I think we already do.
(No, Charles won’t actually carry Erik anywhere, nor vice versa. What will happen is this -
Charles will untangle himself, remove the needle from the record, close up the scotch, turn off the lights. Erik will wait by the stairs for Charles to join him, to link their hands together again, to lead him up to their room. Charles will ease Erik back down onto their bed, kiss him deeply, hold tight to his hips, like he might die without the heat of contact, of friction. Erik will gasp and pant and twist beneath him, running his hands over Charles’ stomach, his chest, making little noises of need and awe. Charles will grin, placing breathless, sloppy kisses all up and down Erik's neck.
And Charles will tell, will show, will assure Erik - you are loved, you are loved, you are loved -
- oh, at last -