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Title: Love's Own Crown (9/?)
Authors: nekosmuse wrote the prose, afrocurl the poetry
Series: The Sonnet Series (aka the sequel to An Ideal Grace)
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: Charles/Erik
Fandom: XMFC (non-powered, modern AU)
Summary: Follows An Ideal Grace, in which Charles and Erik navigate the complexities of their new relationship.

Warning: This chapter contains what could be considered dubious consent (though mostly due to Erik's head space) and past, non-graphic reference to noncon and dubcon.

Back to chapter 8


carved standards,


is that

should it




Control, by Erik Lehnsherr, November, 2011


Charles reached for the patatas bravas. He popped a potato into his mouth.

It turned out the place down the street was a Spanish restaurant. Raven had returned with an assortment of tapas and two cartons of paella. They were eating in the living room, Charles and Erik on the couch, plates cradled in their laps, while Raven sat cross-legged on the floor. She alternated between picking food off her plate and texting someone on her iPhone.

"Azazel," she said when Erik asked. She laughed at something she read on her screen.

There was something decidedly domestic about the entire arrangement. Charles rather liked it. It was amazing, too, how much better he felt, Erik a warm weight at his side, Raven's laughter light and familiar. This, Charles suspected, was what it meant to have family. Growing up, Charles would have traded the whole of his family's fortune for this.

"Is Azazel working tonight?" he asked once he had swallowed.

He traded his empty plate for his wine glass--a spicy Syrah that perfectly complimented the food. Erik, it turned out, enjoyed a good vintage; had a tiny wine rack he kept in the coolest, darkest part of the apartment. Upon seeing it, Charles had had the sudden urge to take Erik to Westchester; to let him explore his father's old cellar.

In response to Charles' question, Raven nodded. "He's texting me descriptions of some of the more outlandish costumes. Apparently someone came dressed as a playboy bunny, except, in addition to the skimpy lingerie, the guy also glued fake fur to every inch of his exposed skin. An ambulance picked up him an hour ago--allergic reaction."

Charles chuckled at that. He'd attended more than his share of Halloween parties--had worn more than his share of outrageous costumes. During his time at Oxford, a priest costume had landed him ten phone numbers and an invitation to his very first threesome.

Probably not something he should be remembering fondly, Charles realized, glancing somewhat sheepishly in Erik's direction. Given Erik's frequent displays of possessiveness, Charles didn't think he'd appreciate the story.

"Is he stopping by later?" Charles asked. He liked talking to Raven. It felt like he'd known her his entire life, like they'd grown up together, Raven as easy to talk to as Moira.

"He has to close up tonight," Raven said, shrugging like it didn't matter either way, but Charles could tell she was disappointed.

He felt Erik shift a little closer, sympathy for Raven's plight. Charles reached over and patted his knee, earning a snort and an eye roll from Raven.

"Do you two want to be alone?" she asked.

Part of Charles wanted to say yes--to drag Erik back to his bedroom and finish what they'd started earlier--but part of him was terrified they'd end up lapsing back into silence. Raven's presence was a balm. More often than not it was her who had directed tonight's conversation.

Charles decided the best course of action was simply to delay the decision. He stood abruptly, Raven's eyebrows inching up while Erik glanced curiously in his direction.

"Sorry, too much wine," Charles said, gesturing to the bathroom. It was somewhat thrilling to see the look of disappointment that crossed Erik's face. Charles came very close to changing his mind.

Except that he actually had to go. It had been a while, he realized, and while emptying the contents of his stomach into Erik's toilet had been pleasant--if only because it had eased his nausea--it had done nothing for his bladder.

Raven was saying something as Charles disappeared behind the bathroom door, though he was too far away to make out what it was. He tried to be quick, but by the time he returned to the living room, Raven had moved from the floor to the couch and Erik was in the kitchen, standing over the sink. Charles spared a moment to admire the line of his backside before moving to join Raven on the couch. When he sat next to her, she gave him a considering look.

"What?" Charles said, thinking perhaps he had something stuck in his teeth--he could have sworn he'd checked. Raven narrowed her eyes.

"Do you mind if I?" she reached out a hand towards him, fingers hovering next to his cheek. Thinking she meant to wipe something away, Charles nodded. It was somewhat of a shock to have Raven press two fingers into his flesh, like she was checking for ripeness.

Charles' tentative smile turned into a confused frown.

"Um..." he got out, but by then Raven had already pulled her hand away.

"Sorry, just seeing if I could touch you," she said, which was easily the strangest thing anyone had ever said to Charles. When he glanced into the kitchen, he found Erik watching them. In place of the possessive indignation Charles was expecting, Erik appeared genuinely pleased, like Raven had done something spectacular.

Charles had no idea what to make of that. Raven glanced over her shoulder to catch Erik's eye.

"Apparently I'm fine with him living with us," she said. Charles' eyes grew wide. So did Erik's smile.

"In that case," Erik said, "you can use him as your model." He chuckled to himself, giving Charles a wide grin before turning back to the dishes.

Charles glanced from Erik to Raven, and then followed Raven's gaze to the make-up kit on the coffee table. Charles' mouth fell open.

"I'm not sure if that's..." he began, but Raven looked positively thrilled. Charles glanced back into the kitchen and found Erik still occupied with clean up.

He remembered then the pride and excitement in Erik's voice when he'd told Charles about Raven's intentions to go back to school. Helping her foster that interest was the least he could do, especially after everything she'd done for him. Besides, he couldn't see any harm in letting her practice. Charles' nod was still somewhat reluctant.

Raven beamed at him. When Charles glanced back into the kitchen he found Erik watching them over his shoulder, hands still submerged in soapy water--and given that they'd used all of three plates, Charles knew he was dragging dish washing out, undoubtedly using it as an excuse to escape Charles' fate.

"Stay put," Raven said, drawing Charles' attention back to her. She disappeared down the hall, returning a minute later with a wet, warm washcloth and a bottle of moisturizer.

"Wash and moisturize," she said, handing both items to Charles.

Charles did as instructed, listening to Raven explain the importance of a solid base. In the kitchen, Erik had given up the pretense of washing dishes. He was now leaned over the island, watching intently, seeming entirely too amused. Charles shot him a glare, but it was half-hearted--he would do anything, including let Raven slather him in make-up if it meant seeing that look of happiness on Erik's face. The smile that tugged at Erik's lips was as pleased as it was smug. It was a definite improvement over the lost expression Erik had worn earlier that day; and anything was better than thinking about his mother and her estate and the possibility of Erik not being able to reconcile himself to that kind of wealth.

"I get to be here when she does this to you," Charles said, earning a laugh and a nod, Erik settling further against the counter, enraptured now.

Raven's fingers, startlingly cold, found his chin. She tilted Charles' face towards the light.

"Try not to move," she said. Charles nodded, earning a glare for already disobeying her instructions.

"Sorry," he tried, but Raven merely shook her head, coated a sponge in foundation, and then reached for him.

This wasn't the first time Charles had worn make-up. Some of those Halloween costumes had involved elaborate face-paint, and he'd attended several pride parades in drag--partly because he could, though mostly because it had pissed off his mother. Some distant part of him thought he ought to feel guilty for that now. Instead, sitting for Raven, allowing her to trace the contours of his eyes with liner, he felt strangely liberated.

He had no idea how long it lasted, the experience surreal and yet oddly relaxing. For the longest time he drifted, mind wandering from topic to topic. He thought about his work, and about Erik, and about his new lawyer. He thought about what he might do with his mother's money--give it all away came immediately to mind. He thought about throwing Moira a lavish wedding--she'd let him, he knew. He thought about never having to apply for another research grant again--he could work on anything that struck his fancy, entirely self-financed. He thought about buying Erik and Raven that brownstone Erik had mentioned.

Mostly he sat, acutely aware of Raven's steady breathing and the weight of Erik's gaze from where he stood, so impossibly still in the kitchen.

"You can open your eyes now," Raven said at some point, Charles blinking against the sudden light, feeling then like he'd just woken up from a long and thoroughly relaxing nap. Erik had moved from the kitchen and was now standing at Raven's back, watching Charles' face intently. His eyes were wide, twin spots of colour dotting his cheeks. His pupils were completely blown. Charles swallowed, wanting then to see what Erik was seeing--wanting then to call an end to this entire thing so that he could take Erik somewhere a little more private.

Raven had finished lining his lips and was filling them in, tiny brush moving expertly over his bow. Charles couldn't seem to tear his gaze from Erik's face. There was something in Erik's expression--something almost feral--that set Charles' heart fluttering. It knocked against his ribcage, the sound of blood rushing in his ears almost thunderous. Raven was an awkward presence in the room.

"Obviously, I'd have to make it thicker for stage," she said as she pulled back, startling Charles back into the moment. He glanced in her direction. She was wielding a lip brush like it was a sword, Charles startled to notice she'd chosen a bright, cherry red for his colour. He glanced back to Erik.

It was impossible to describe that expression Erik was wearing, but Charles could easily divine its meaning. He licked at his lips, tasting wax. Erik's mouth fell open. Raven, who was busy cleaning up her kit, glanced between them, only then realizing what was going on.

"Ew, guys, seriously," she said. She stood then, tucking her kit under her arm. "Not that I'm not glad I could facilitate..." she gestured between them, shook her head and then all but fled from the room. Charles had never seen a faster retreat. He felt his cheeks heat, undoubtedly adding to the colour already there. When he glanced to Erik, he found Erik looking more than a little sheepish, though so obviously aroused he didn't seem particularly bothered by it.

"So this is a thing for you," Charles said, smiling. He had to admit, it was somewhat of a surprise. Erik, who was still staring at Charles like he wanted to devour him, coloured, but his gaze didn't waver. He extended a hand.

Charles took it, somewhat surprised because the last time they were here--while Raven was here--Erik had outright refused to do anything until she had left. Apparently Erik was now willing to violate his rules. Charles made a mental note to wear make-up more often.

Erik led Charles down the hall. They passed Raven's closed bedroom door, the unmistakable sound of television resonating through the wood, but Erik didn't hesitate. He tugged Charles into his bedroom and closed the door behind them, but instead of dragging Charles to the bed--which Charles was half expecting--Erik brought him into the tiny bathroom and positioned Charles in front of the mirror.

It was a somewhat startling thing to see. Even with an afternoon's worth of scruff, there was something very delicate about his features when highlighted by eyeliner and lipstick. Charles felt like he was looking at a stranger. He barely recognized the reflection starting back at him.

"Do you see?" Erik asked, voice a low whisper in his ear. Even as he spoke he ran the tip of his nose around the shell of Charles' ear. Charles shivered, swallowing against the sudden dryness in his throat. He nodded.

Erik's breath was warm and moist against the back of Charles' ear, Charles' skin erupting into gooseflesh at the sensation. In the mirror, he saw Erik smirk. Erik caught his eye, watching Charles' reflection intently as he leaned forward and took Charles' earlobe into his mouth. He kept his eyes open as he sucked, hard.

Charles' legs went a little rubbery, but before they could give out completely, Erik caught him around the waist, pulling Charles so that he was plastered against Erik's front. Charles' vision whited.

This is what they'd been building to on the couch. He'd hoped it would happen--certainly he wanted it to happen--but he'd resigned himself to waiting, to taking his time, to accepting that it might not happen. How he thought he'd ever survive not doing this, he didn't know, especially now that Erik was rocking into him, erection pressed tight against Charles' ass, one hand holding fast to Charles' stomach while the other stroked him through his pants. His mouth was still latched to Charles' earlobe, teeth tugging against it. The sensation teetered on the edge of painful. It made Charles dizzy with want.

He was having a hard time keeping his eyes open, but Erik was still watching him through the mirror, so Charles didn't dare close them. Through the wall, he heard the soft strains of what was undoubtedly some reality television show. Charles swallowed a moan. Erik pulled back, letting go of Charles' earlobe with a wet pop. He smiled at Charles through the mirror, obviously pleased by Charles' attempts at silence.

"God, you have no idea how incredible you look, do you?" he said, still speaking in a whisper. Charles whimpered.

It was worth it for Erik's reprimand, a sharp bite to the side of Charles' neck, Erik's smile shifting to something much more dangerous--something Charles had never seen before but found he very much liked.

Erik reached for Charles' belt.

Charles' eyes grew wide. In the mirror, highlighted by eye liner, they seemed impossibly large. Were they really going to do this here? Inside Erik's tiny bathroom? Right next to the wall Erik shared with Raven's room?

It seemed unthinkable. It was also probably the hottest thing that had ever happened to Charles. There was something about Erik--something so sharply different from how he usually approached their encounters--that had ratcheted Charles' arousal to near fever pitch. His Erik was so precise and so careful--so thoroughly reverent. This Erik was reckless, consumed by his arousal. Gone was Erik's usually hesitance, replaced by fierce determination. He pulled Charles' belt from its loops, tossing it into the ground. The buckle clinked against the tile floor.


A distant part of Erik's brain was screaming at him, asking him what the hell he thought he was doing. Erik ignored it--just like he ignored the teeth-filled smile that floated on the periphery of his memory. Charles was stunning like this. It was every fantasy Erik had ever wanted to have but had steadily refused himself over these past few weeks. It was Charles, undone, looking entirely debauched, his irises all but obliterated by his pupils, eyes framed by smudges of black, lips plump and swollen and red. Erik could seem to stop staring, watching Charles' reflection as though somewhere, written in that mirror image, he could find all the answers.

He wanted Charles in ways he had never wanted anyone, and if the swell of Charles' erection, straining against the cotton of his underwear, was any indication, then Charles wanted him too. Erik gave a final tug on Charles' pants, entranced by the sight of them pooling around Charles' ankles, trapping him where he stood.

Normally Erik would have asked--that distant part of his brain was telling him to ask--but Erik was beyond vocalization.

The back of Charles' neck was distracting him again--that damned freckle--Erik tearing his gaze from the mirror to place a kiss against it even as he palmed Charles through his underwear. Charles rocked back into him, Erik more than happy to rut against him, to feel the swell of Charles' buttock pressing firm against Erik's erection. Erik kissed his way across Charles' neck, into his hairline, then down to the curve of his shoulder. He couldn't seem to stop from nipping. By the time he was done, Charles' neck was a mess of red and purple, skin shiny from Erik's saliva.

Erik couldn't remember ever feeling so out of control. The sudden impulse to push Charles down, to bend him over the sink and rub against him until they were both coming was as shocking as it was visceral. Only that distant part of his brain--more insistent now--kept him from doing exactly that.

Instead he reached for Charles' underwear and drew them down, too, letting them pool inside Charles' pants. It left Charles in only his shirt, cardigan abandoned during their make-out session on the couch. It hung over Charles' hips, obscuring his backside, so Erik wrenched it up, tucking it under Charles' arms.

Charles leaned forward of his own accord, elbows coming to rest on the edges of the pedestal sink.

Erik's brain short-circuited.

Is this what all of his previous partners had felt when they had Erik bent over, on display for their pleasure and their pleasure alone? Charles' reflection looked nothing like Erik would have imagined. There was no hesitation, no discomfort; only want and a keen sense of now. The distant part of Erik's brain retreated. Erik placed a hand on Charles' ass cheek and pulled, eyes fixed on Charles' crack as it widened.

Charles canted back his hips, rocking up until he was opened wide enough for Erik to make out his anus. Is this what Charles wanted? For the first time in Erik's life he thought he might actually be capable of this. Certainly he wanted it--wanted to sink into Charles until there was nothing between them. He hazarded a glance back into the mirror and found Charles watching him, eyes still blown by lust, mouth open as he panted. Some of his lipstick had smudged, leaving a red trail across Charles' chin. His mascara was beginning to run, leaving black shadows beneath his eyes.

It was the most beautiful thing Erik had ever seen.

Cautiously, he placed his thumb against the base of Charles' spine. Charles let out the tiniest of moans, enough to bolster Erik's confidence. He ran the thumb down, dipping into Charles' crack, not stopping until he'd reached Charles' hole. Charles pushed back against him.

Oh, God, how many times had Shaw done this to him--how many times had he vowed he would never violate someone like this--and yet here Charles was, rocking into him, like he was trying to fuck himself down onto Erik's thumb. Erik had never before felt as powerful as he did in this moment. It terrified him. He removed his hand. Charles whined.

"Please," he said, sounding so utterly desperate that what was left of Erik's rational thought fled.

Instead of retreating back--which had been his plan--Erik leaned forward, until he was plastered against Charles' back, Charles bent pleasantly beneath him.

"What are you doing to me?" he managed, whispering into Charles' ear. Charles shuddered, pushing his hips even further back, until Erik's still clothed cock settled neatly between Charles' cheeks.

"Please," he said again. It seemed to be the only word he was capable of saying. Erik removed one of the hands holding Charles' waist and reached for the medicine cabinet.

He hadn't planned this--of course he hadn't planned this--but fate had brought them here, to the exact place where Erik stored the condoms and lube he'd bought last week. Charles groaned when he saw what Erik was retrieving. He shifted, squirming slightly, and it took Erik a second to realize Charles was spreading his legs as wide as his pooled pants would allow.

The few coherent thoughts that Erik had left--like the one that suggested maybe Charles would be more comfortable in a bed--vanished. Erik fumbled to coat two of his fingers in lube.

Oh, God, was he actually going to do this?

At least he knew what he was doing here. He'd paid close attention the last time Charles had fucked him--yesterday, that was yesterday, he remembered. He knew how to do this without hurting Charles.

The part of his brain that kept trying to usurp this--the one that reared its ugly head whenever he caught a glimpse of Charles in the mirror--wanted desperately just to slick his cock and thrust it inside. Instead Erik brought slippery fingers back to Charles' ass and began rubbing delicate circles around his hole.

Charles mewed. There was really no other word for it. The sound went straight to Erik's cock. His erection had started to wane as the full realization of what he was about to do hit, but if Charles kept making noises like that, kept saying things like Oh, God, and Yes, and Fucking finally, Erik was pretty sure he wasn't going to have a problem for long.

He glanced up again, intent on catching Charles' eye in the mirror and asking--physically asking no matter how hard that was--if he was sure, but the image he was met with was so overwhelming--so stunning-- that it stole Erik's breath. Charles looked--obscene. There was no other word for it. His shirt was still pushed up under his armpits, high enough that one of his nipples showed; a stiff peak that Erik wanted to bite and suck at. His supported himself on one elbow and one arm, body bent so that Erik had an unobstructed view of his cock, hard and leaking precome all over the side of Erik's sink. His pupils were fully dilated; eyes a mess of black make-up, and his lips--so very red--were swollen from where he'd been biting them. He looked drugged. He looked debauched. He looked so very, very fuckable.

Without really realizing what he was doing, Erik pressed two fingers inside. He watched Charles' reflection, utterly captivated as Charles' eyes grew wide, mouth falling open into a wide 'o' of surprise.

Erik bit his lip and pushed his fingers further inside. Charles keened.

Through the wall, the sound of Raven's television set grew louder. Even that did nothing to ease Erik's ardour. The memory of having been on the receiving end of this once--though over a desk instead of a sink--came close to derailing him, but then Charles pushed back, swearing under his breath, Erik falling from his lips like an entreaty to God. Shaw was instantly banished.

"Is this what you want?" Erik made himself ask, even as he scissored his fingers inside of Charles. A distant part of him hoped Charles said no--wanted Charles to say no--Erik completely out of control, like he was piloting a crashing plane, with no hope for a safe landing. He pulled his fingers part way out and added a third, just like Charles had done for him.

"If you do not fuck me sometime soon, I am going to spontaneously combust," Charles gritted out. He sounded debased. It made Erik want to hook his fingers inside, so he did, pulling back slightly until Charles had no choice but to come to him.


There was no missing the warning in Charles' voice; no missing the entreaty, either. He wasn't ready, the distant part of Erik's brain said. The part of his brain alternating between watching Charles in the mirror and watching his fingers slide in and out of Charles' ass was more than fine with the idea.

Slowly, he withdrew his hand.

It took several tries to get his pants open, several more to get the condom wrapper open, hands slick with lube. It took even longer to get the damned condom on, his hands shaking uncontrollably. He used what was likely far too much lube, but reasoned too much was better than too little. Please be sure, Erik thought, wrapping one hand--still shaking--around Charles' hip, using the other to line himself up at Charles' hole.

Time stopped moving. The whole of the night compressed down to this single moment, Erik frozen on the edge of penetrating Charles. I can't, he thought, the men he'd known who had done this--Shaw and that damned asshole who used to hurt Raven--no one he ever wanted to be associated with. It occurred to him then that Charles had done this--several times now--and there was nothing ugly in the way Charles slid inside him, slow and gentle, rocking against him until Erik's toes curled. He could do this. He could make Charles feel that slow, delicious burn. And Charles wanted this; Erik could see that the second he sought Charles' reflection in the mirror, Charles looking more than a little desperate. Erik pushed.

Immediately Charles pushed back, Erik slipping in further than he'd intended and oh. Oh, God.

Erik's vision went blurry around the edges, and for a minute he was half afraid he might pass out. The hand on Charles' hip tightened--he knew he was likely leaving bruises, but couldn't bring himself to relax his grip. He brought his arm up to wrap around Charles' waist, holding him firmly in place, Erik still only half inside.

Curling forward until his forehead was pressed between Charles' shoulder blades pushed him a little further inside, Erik's entire body tensing at the sensation, the heat of it--oh, God, the heat of it--almost too much to bear. For the longest time, all he could do was pant. Charles had gone impossibly still beneath him, though Erik wasn't sure if that was because he was hurting Charles or because Charles was waiting for him. He was about to ask--to check, because that was what he was supposed to do, wasn't it?--when Charles spoke.

"Move." It was just the one word, but said with such desperation that Erik couldn't help but thrust forward, the movement setting off sparks behind his eyelids--when had he closed his eyes? Charles shuddered beneath him, mumbling now. It took Erik several seconds to work out that he was saying Thank you over and over again until it lost all meaning.

It was then that Erik made the mistake of glancing back to the mirror. Charles looked wrecked. There was no other word for it. The sight of it drove out any grace and reason Erik might have had left, Erik only dimly aware of the low grow that rumbled in his throat. He tightened his grip on Charles' waist, dug his fingers into Charles' hip, and began fucking Charles in earnest.

Fucking Charles like Shaw used to fuck him.

Erik was only dimly aware of this, driven by a primal need that Erik had never experienced before. There was nothing coordinated about it; it was messy and raw, the sound of it, flesh against flesh, startlingly loud on the tiny bathroom. In and out, in and out, a quick pace that had Charles gripping the edge of the sink, head bowed and hand moving rapidly between his legs. Erik had half a second to marvel that Charles was masturbating before his orgasm hit, taking him completely by surprise, his hips stuttering as he slid forcefully back into Charles and came.

Beneath him, Charles moaned, finding his own release.

Time stopped moving again, pieces of the room coming back into focus--the green-blue of the tiles temporarily distracting him from what he'd just done. When it came back to him, still buried inside Charles as he was, Erik staggered back, withdrawing too quickly, earning a muted hiss from Charles. Erik didn't stop moving until he'd hit the back wall, not quite a foot from where Charles was still bent over the sink--oh, God, he'd fucked Charles over a damned sink; what was wrong with him? Erik felt himself fall more than slide, until he was sitting against the back wall, knees drawn into his chest, wet, used condom still rolled over his dick. He wrapped his arms around his legs and tried not to hyperventilate.

Charles glanced over his shoulder, the dopey looking grin on his face vanishing the second he caught sight of Erik. He winced as he moved, guilt spiking in Erik's chest at the sight.

"I'm so sorry," Erik said, Charles kneeling beside him. A look of startled confusion crossed Charles' features. Erik was drawn to the spattering of semen across Charles' abdomen. It took effort to tear his gaze away, but the sight of Charles's face, black and red with smeared make-up, flushed with excursion and dampened with sweat, did little to ease Erik's conscience.

Charles shook his head.

"Okay, I need to know what just happened, because a second ago I was having the best sex of my life, and now you're curled up on the floor."

Erik's brain stumbled on best sex of my life, because surely Charles hadn't actually enjoyed that--had he? Erik had just taken--he hadn't even asked--he'd just bent Charles over and taken like he was some kind of animal. Was that normal? Was that how this was done? Had he been wrong to hate Shaw for it all these years?

Erik was half afraid he might be sick.

"I hurt you," Erik tried, because he'd seen Charles wince. There was no way, especially given how little prep he'd done, that he hadn't hurt Charles.

Charles reached out a tentative hand and placed it on Erik's shoulder. For reasons Erik couldn't fathom, the gesture flooded him with relief.

"I can assure you I'm not hurt. And, I can assure you that everything we just did was consensual. At least, it was on my part, and I thought it was on yours, but if it wasn't you need to tell me."

There was honest-to-God panic in Charles' voice, which confused Erik to no end because why would Charles possibly think that?

Erik shook his head. "I wanted it," he said, and he still did, he realized. He wanted to do it again--to fuck Charles, to feel the intense heat of Charles wrapped around him, to have Charles' slim hips in his hands and didn't that just make him the world's biggest asshole?

"Okay. Okay, that's okay, because you wanted it, and I wanted it, so there shouldn't really be a reason we couldn't do that."

Charles sounded utterly hesitant, like he was tiptoeing around landmines, uncertain of where to step. It occurred to Erik, watching Charles' confusion--Charles' reaction--that this was probably another one of those things that Shaw had screwed him up for. This probably was what people did. It probably was perfectly normal and, God, Erik couldn't seem to get away from the man no matter how hard he tried.

"I really didn't hurt you?" Erik said, because it was still his most pressing concern.

Charles shook his head. "Trust me, it was really, really good for me."

Erik wanted to believe that--he wanted to believe that so much that he found himself nodding. Charles' tension lessened, but he still looked worried, so Erik didn't hesitate to accept the hand he offered. He let Charles pull him to his feet.

"Let's get cleaned up and go to bed," Charles said, Erik more than happy to agree. This entire day had been... too much, if he was honest with himself.

Through the wall, he could still hear the blare of Raven's television. New guilt, this time directed at Raven, coiled in his chest. He hadn't meant to make her uncomfortable. He certainly hadn't meant for her to hear anything that had just happened. He'd reconciled himself to having sex with Charles while she was in the house--something that was bound to happen if Charles did come to live with them--but this went beyond anything he'd meant to do.

He was so busy worrying about Raven--worrying about Charles--that he didn't notice Charles removing the spent condom until it was too late. It only made the situation worse, because Erik was supposed to be taking care of Charles, not the other way around. He reached out to still Charles' hand, taking the washcloth Charles was in the process of wetting from his fingers.

"You'll get your splint wet," he said, though he knew now that Charles had stopped caring about the thing--he now used both hands with absolute confidence, the splint little more than an accessory.

Charles didn't argue, handing over the cloth and letting Erik wet it. He cleaned up Charles' face first--something that seemed to amuse Charles to no end, a soft smile tugging at his lips. Erik merely shook his head and concentrated on wiping away the black of his eyes, and then the red of his lips. It wasn't perfect--they'd need something stronger than water for that--but he cleaned the worst of it away, until Charles wore only the faintest outline of liner, his lips still red, but the colour was mostly his own.

When he was done, he rinsed the washcloth and started on Charles' stomach--he had to move Charles' shirt out of the way; it had fallen during their conversation.

"Okay?" Erik asked, making eye contact before he reached around, waiting for Charles' nod before he ran the cloth through Charles' crack, cleaning the lubricant from his hole.

It occurred to him then that he was still fully dressed, pants hanging around his hips, while Charles was wearing only a shirt--he'd stepped out of his pants and underwear at some point--and a pair of socks. Erik tossed the washcloth in the sink and began slowly undressing them both. Charles stood stock-still, patiently allowing Erik to do so. When they were both naked, he took Charles' good hand and led him towards the bed.

On to chapter 10
That Charles came willingly, smile still nestled on his face, went a long way to easing Erik's worry.

It was still a long time before Erik found sleep. It wasn't until Charles' breathing evened out, Charles curled into his chest, like Erik was worthy of redemption and not the monster he still feared he might become, that Erik felt comfortable enough to allow himself to drift. Shaw's ghost still lingered in the room, Erik's past becoming irrevocably tangled with his and Charles' future. Erik couldn't decide if that was a good or bad thing.

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