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[HEAVILY EDITED PLEASE NOTE: This chapter was posted here, to my Dreamwidth, during a period of time when Livejournal was down for the count. Given how much this story has been linked around--which, you guys, what--I've opted to leave it here. But if you're a new reader popping through everything, YES THIS IS THE SAME STORY, SO SORRY FOR THE ABRUPT PLATFORM SHIFT. Carry on :D

LOOK IT'S A FLASHBACK CHAPTER OF BROS. I am sorry this update took so long; to be fair, though, it is 8500 words long,and full of ~feelings~, which could be part of the problem :D

So, uh, to take care of some business--I am receiving a TRULY AWESOME amount of feedback and love and ART for this fic (oh my god you guys what what WHAT I love you all so much it is RIDICULOUS), and I'll be doing a round-up post at some point in the near future. Additionally, given LJ's recent issues, I'm mirroring this chapter on my Dreamwidth, which I keep meaning to use and then forgetting about. I even went through and did the whole entry-copying process a couple months ago, but alas, it took a few days, and by the time it was done my attention had flitted away again. ONE OF THESE DAYS I'LL BE ABLE TO FOCUS ON THINGS, GUYS. ONE OF THESE DAYS.

Also, I am really, genuinely, truly sorry to all the folks out there who asked for Steve/Tony; Steve, sadly, already had a planned purpose in this story, otherwise I would totally have tried to give y'all some of that action.

And, finally, thanks as always to [personal profile] postcardmystery, as well as to tokidokifish over on tumblr, who made the incredible art that adorns this chapter! ALL OF THE LOVE, YOU GUYS, ALL OF IT.

Title: Carpe Brewski
Pairing: Erik/Charles [past Charles/Steve Rogers]
Rating: R
Author's Notes: This is a WIP, folks. You're going to want to start with Chapter One (where disclaimers, summary, etc, can be found), Chapter Two, Chapter Three, Chapter Four, Chapter Five, and Chapter Six.

Chapter Seven: Is This Really What You're Gonna Do For The Rest of Your Life?


Athletic, civic-minded and gainfully employed, Steve Rogers was exactly the kind of guy Charles had pictured himself with before meeting Erik. By default, this made him the kind of guy Charles hadn't looked twice at since meeting Erik, because the comparison made his head spin; this was all the more true during midterm season of his junior year, when he came down with a flu bad enough to make the whole world fuzzy and horrible.

"You look like shit," Erik said, leaning across the table in the coffeeshop and lifting up a piece of Charles' hair. It flopped limply back into place, and Erik snorted. "Look! Even your hair is exhausted, dude, stop studying and go home."

"Touching though your concern is," Charles said, "I don't have time to go home--and, actually, I am in this coffeeshop because I was hoping you wouldn't find me here, because I really, really wanted to avoid having this very conversation with you."

"I always find you," Erik said. "You're not really much of a hider, especially not when you're leaving a fucking breadcrumb trail of filthy germs everywhere. Seriously, they should quarantine you, you shouldn't be out in public, you're going to spread the plague to everyone and then I'll have to be like 'Oh, well, I tried to make him stay inside but he wanted to keep studying and cough on strangers--'"

"I have to pass my midterms," Charles said. "Then, I assure you, I have every intention of sleeping for the next hundred years or so."

"Urgh, you even sound like the monster from the Black Lagoon, that's seriously disgusting. I just shared a pizza with you the other day!"

"I'm terribly sorry that my illness is having adverse effects on your comfort level," Charles moaned, and dropped his head onto his textbook. "But then again, if you would just do what I ask and leave me to fail all my classes in peace--"

"Aww," said Erik, so unbearably fond it stuck and hurt in Charles' chest, "is someone all grouchy just because he's a leaking zombie corpse?"

"You're a," Charles said, "er. Stupid…bloody…buggering. Thing, that's what you are, you're a thing. I hate you. You suck. Go away."

"Charles Xavier, your intellect knows no equal," Erik said. Charles flipped him the finger without lifting his head, and Erik just laughed. Charles didn't even need to look up to know his head was tipped back with it, exposing the line of his throat; the was probably for the best, since even the idea of actually moving was exhausting.

"Whatever," Charles said, "whatever, okay, I'm not leaving, so you can either sit there and not talk to me or sit…elsewhere. And not talk to me. Please pick elsewhere, please, please, this is bad enough without you reminding me of how atrocious it is."

"Fine," said Erik, ruffling his hair as he pushed back from the table. Charles bit back low moan, because he had a headache and that felt so good, but Erik would never let him stay if he revealed further weakness. "I'm coming back for you at midnight, though, and if you won't leave then, I'm getting the pledges involved."

Charles paled. The pledges meant Scott. The pledges meant Logan.

"This is a place of business!" he hissed, and Erik raised his eyebrows.

"Then you'll just have to cooperate, won't you?" he said. "Good luck with the studying, try not to breathe on anyone important, I'll see you at midnight."

"Fuck you too," Charles said wearily, and didn't lift his head until he was sure Erik was gone.

Unfortunately, this only yielded him in discovering a large, blond man leaning over his table.

"Um," said Charles, "can I…help you?"

"Maybe," the guy said, smiling and revealing dimples. "I guess it depends. I'd hate to be too forward, but--well, I was wondering if that guy who just left was your boyfriend."

"Erik?" Charles said, and then realized that Erik's name would not be a helpful identifier to this complete stranger. "Um. Uh. Sorry, I mean--no, he's my…uh. We're not…no, no, he's not my boyfriend."

The guy's grin widened, and a terrible thought occurred to Charles. "But he's straight," he added hastily, "he's quite decidedly straight, so if you were--I mean, I suppose I could give you his number, but you wouldn't want it, because again, quite straight. Extremely straight. Straight-on-toast."

The guy laughed. It was, Charles observed dispassionately, a good laugh; honest, unforced. "I hate to break it to you, but it's actually not your friend I'm interested in."

Charles, in a moment he was going to go ahead and blame on being desperately ill, actually looked around before he cottoned on. The guy raised his eyebrows and quirked him a smile, and Charles glanced down to confirm what he already knew. As expected, he was, in fact, still wearing four sweaters and an extremely battered pair of jeans; he had a tissue clutched in one hand, a dogeared study guide with the word "fuck" written up the margins in the other.


Art by the amazing tokidokifish!


Generally speaking, Charles considered himself fairly attractive, if not in any earth-shattering sort of way. Under the circumstances, however…

"Sorry," he said, coughing on it, "I'm not sure I understand. Are you actually attempting to hit on…"

"You," the guy said, nodding at him brightly. "Just you, I swear."

"My apologies," said Charles, "but I am…still confused. Maybe it's escaped your attention, but it's not exactly my best day."

"I did kind of notice that," the guy admitted. "But the last time I saw you in here, you left before I had a chance to introduce myself. I wasn't about to miss my shot again. I'm Steve, by the way."

"Um," Charles said, "Charles?"

"Charles," Steve said, without a hint of irony in his voice, "you have lovely eyes."

"I…" Charles said, wondering fuzzily if this was a setup, "I…have lovely…who are you? Is this some kind of pledge prank?"

"What," the guy said, "you don't get told you've got lovely eyes on a regular basis?"

"Oh, god, please don't tell me I should be complimented often and by someone who knows how," Charles said, because sometimes Erik's particular brand of cynicism rubbed off on him. He winced the second it came out of his mouth, regret instant and all-consuming. "You know what, on second thought, maybe it would be better if you just left me to my misery, I've clearly made this awkward enough already."

Steve laughed again, that same deep, uncomplicated baritone. "Are you always so bad at this?"

"No," Charles said honestly, "sometimes I'm considerably worse. In fairness, though, I'm fairly certain I'm running a temperature, maybe you should try back later."

"Tell you what," Steve said, "normally I'd go for some kind of temperature-related line, but I'm thinking that might break you--"

"Well-reasoned," Charles said faintly.

"So, instead," Steve said, reaching into his back pocket, "here's my card. If you feel up to it, give me a call sometime. If not, I guess I'll…try back later, like you said. Either way, it was a pleasure to meet you."

Charles took the card--white, simple, with the university logo in the left corner--and looked down at it in mystified disbelief. It read Steve Rogers, Assistant Director, Alumni Affairs in clear, legible black script, raised slightly under his fingers.

"Ah," said Charles, "well. I. Thank you?"

"Sure," Steve said, and actually tipped his baseball cap before zipping up his jacket and turning towards the door. "Feel better, Charles."

Charles really didn't have any intention of calling the guy. When he told Erik about it a few hours later, he laughed for fifteen minutes about the whole 'lovely eyes' thing ("what kind of schmuck, oh my god, where do you find these dudes, seriously") and then forgot about it entirely in favor of bullying Charles into taking Nyquil. It slipped out of Charles' mind, consumed as he was with midterms and impending death, and really it was Erik's fault that he even though about it again at all.

"You don't understand soup," Erik said over the phone. He'd come down with the same flu that Charles had finally shaken, and sounded more or less like sandpaper had been drawn across his throat. "I should have come with you, you're going to get the wrong kind--like, like fucking black bean or something, and then I'll be doomed."

"You would've had to get out of bed to come with me," Charles said, "which, if I recall, you're not planning on doing until the first of Never."

"Are you mocking me?" Erik said. "I feel like you're mocking me, which would be so wrong, because I took care of you with no mockery at all--"

"You did nothing but mock," Charles said, laughing on it, "you mocked the whole time, but no, for what it's worth, I'm not mocking. I'm merely curious as to how I could possibly purchase the wrong kind of canned soup--"

"Well--"

"Especially after you gave me a list ranking brands," Charles finished. There was a silence at the end of the line.

"Did I really do that?"

"You have a fever," Charles said, rolling his eyes and grabbing a can of Progresso, "and it's obviously made you more delirious than usual. Go to sleep and leave me to do your bidding in peace."

"You're not allowed peace," Erik warned, "you don't deserve peace, do not even start, it is your fault I feel this way, these are your germs--"

"Yes, yes, I know," Charles said. "I suppose there's no chance you remember that I didn't force you to spend time with me last week--in fact, I actively tried to avoid you, and you hunted me down, so…"

"I don't care," Erik said, "this is your fault. This is your fucking blame, I blame it on you. And if you bring the wrong kind of soup I will blame you more."

"You are such a bitch when you're sick, I swear to god," Charles muttered.

"What was that?"

"I said," Charles said, letting heavy sarcasm creep into his tone, "you're a regular ray of sunshine, love, and I am enjoying this conversation immensely."

"I hate when you talk down to me in British," Erik said, but there was a laugh behind it, tired and dragged raw but real enough. Charles felt something loosen in his chest he hadn't even known was tight. "You're a fucking asshole, you know that?"

"You too," Charles said, "bye."

"Bring me the right--"

"Goodbye," Charles said, and hung up the phone.

And really, it was nothing. It should have been nothing. It was just Erik being Erik, and it would have been nothing, it really would have, except that the guy up the aisle from him--big hands, easy smile, kid balanced comfortably on his hip--must have overhead the conversation. He stopped, grinning wide, and looked at Charles like Charles was the funniest thing he'd seen all day.

"Sounds like you got a tough customer over there," he said. "My wife's the same way when she's sick. You can do it, man! Be strong."

He walked off, leaving Charles with a can of soup in one hand and an oddly consuming sense of dread in the other. Because it wasn't--it's not like it was the first time Charles had dealt with someone assuming he and Erik were a couple, far from it. It was just…he had a sudden idea of what his future would be, of the two of them grown old and grey together, Charles still wanting desperately and never, ever having. He thought of what they'd be like in twenty, in forty years, and wanted to be sick; this was his life, this was his life, and if he wasn't careful he'd spend it in love with someone who would never love him back.

He slipped his cell phone into his jacket pocket, and his fingers brushed the edge of a business card. Steve's name glared up at him when he pulled it out, fresh and new and sharply possible, and Charles was dialing his number before he could think twice about it.

"Steve," he said, "this is Charles from the coffee shop. When did you want to go out?"

--


Steve was 24, taking classes for a Master's in public health when he wasn't at work, and planning on running for city council as soon as he got out of grad school. He lived in a little house about fifteen minutes outside of campus, with a large backyard and a maple tree growing dangerously close to the driveway, and talked to his mother at least once a week. He had two degrees (one in political science, one in business), a five year plan, and a golden retriever he called Captain who followed him everywhere; he had a chip on his shoulder about the football career a blown knee had once cost him, but he didn't like to talk about it. He watched reruns of Sports Center that he TiVo'd if he was going to be out, and volunteered on the weekends when he wasn't keeping to his stringent workout schedule. He was patriotic in a way that, generally speaking, tended to make Charles uncomfortable, though he kept it under wraps much of the time. He liked watching parades on TV, keeping up with the news, and sex in the missionary position; he liked his job, which he talked about incessantly. He genuinely believed he was going to change the world someday. After a fashion, he seemed to genuinely believe that Charles would be there to change it with him.

He was a good guy, a good person. Charles was happy with him. Really, he was.

If he thought it enough, maybe he'd even start to believe it.

--


"I can't believe you couldn't just invite him over to the house," Erik said, rolling his beer between his palms. "I mean, if you're fucking this guy--"

"Oh, god," Charles said, "do we really have to be vulgar about it?"

"If you're fucking this guy," Erik repeated, "which, don't even act like you're not fucking him, dude--"

"Erik, please, could you not?"

"Fine, if you want to be a prude about it, then I'll--if you're, I don't know, whatever the gentile British equivalent is, enjoying this guy in the Biblical sense or whatever--"

"Erik."

"Then I don't understand why he can't come to the place where you fucking live," Erik finished. "Are you ashamed of us now, is that what this whole clandestine bar meeting is about?"

"First of all," Charles said, "there is nothing clandestine about meeting in a bar, this is a public bar, do you even know what clandestine means? And secondly, no, of course I'm not ashamed of our house. But Steve is…older, and I'm a little worried that Logan, in particular, might be a little more than he's prepared to handle."

"Logan's more than anyone's able to handle," Erik agreed. "You know he slept on the porch last night?"

"Wait, seriously?"

"Yeah, found him this morning," Erik said, "fucking pledges are all over the place this year--but, look, handling Logan should just be part of dating you, dude."

"I will bring him by the house soon," Charles said. "But I thought it might be better for him to meet you first, that's all. Can you please stop being impossible about this and try to be friendly?"

"I'm always friendly," Erik said, glowering, and killed the rest of his beer. He signaled for another with the bottle, glanced toward the door. "Blondie at ten o'clock; that him?"

Charles turned in his chair; Steve was standing by the doorway, jacket tossed casually over one arm. He smiled when he saw Charles and started making his way across the bar.

"He looks like a schmuck," Erik said.

"Yes, well, some days you present as a sane person, so," Charles muttered. "Steve, over here!"

"Hey, you," Steve said, reaching them. He put a hand on the back of Charles' neck, the closest he'd come to a display of affection in public; Charles resisted the urge to shrug it free, reminded himself that he was dating this guy, didn't need to feel weird about it in front of his straight best friend. "How was your day?"

"It was…a day," Charles said, still not sure how to deal with the fact that Steve felt it necessary to ask this question every time they saw each other. "Um, you?"

"Oh, you know," Steve said, "Nancy's still trying to block funding on that dinner we want to hold in May, but the Patriots are winning, so it's not all bad. And--oh, god, wait, where are my manners. You must be Erik! I'm Steve. It's great to meet you."

He held his free hand out for Erik to shake; there was a long pause as Erik flicked his eyes down and then back up again, like he was considering his options. Thankfully, he reached out into the grip a second later, his face appraising.

"Really, great to meet you," Steve said again. "I've heard a lot about you--you and Charles go way back, huh?"

"All the way back," Erik said. "Farther back than you can imagine."

"Not…that far," Charles said, cocking his head. "I mean, freshman year wasn't that long ago--"

"No, I get it," Steve said. "I wouldn't want to step on any toes here, and I want you to know right off the bat that I'm not trying to horn in on your friendship, I promise. I like Charles a lot, and I certainly would never want to get in the way of his happiness."

"Aww," Erik said, "is that supposed to win me over? Did you think about that little speech all the way here? Here's a tip--talking about my best friend like he's not here isn't the best way to get me all buddy-buddy."

"Erik," Charles snapped, "Jesus Christ, can you just try--"

"Whatever," Erik snapped, "I'm going to see what's taking my beer so long, you want anything?"

"I'm good," Charles said wearily, lifting the gin and tonic he was nursing. "Steve?"

"No, thank," Steve said, "you know I don't like to drink on weeknights."

"Of course you don't," Erik said, rolling his eyes, and stormed away. Charles dropped his head into his hands and sighed.

"Sorry," he said, "I really am sorry, I swear he's a lovely person at least 15% of the time."

"It's fine," Steve said, sliding onto the stool Erik had vacated. "I didn't expect the warmest welcome ever--I mean, I didn't expect him to be actively nasty either--"

"Seriously, I'm really sorry," Charles said. "He just gets…"

"Jealous?"

"What?" Charles said, lifting his head. "What? No, no, it's nothing like that--he's straight, for god's sake. I was going to say…well, territorial, I suppose. He can be kind of intense, and he's not always…he takes things very seriously, I imagine that's the best way to say it."

"Looks like jealously to me," Steve said, shrugging. "But, hey, if you say I don't have anything to worry about in that department--"

"You don't," Charles said, "you really don't," and Steve smiled at him, rested his hand briefly on Charles' thigh.

"Could you two stop?" Erik snapped, returning."And give me my fucking seat back, seriously. Manners, dude, that's all I'm saying. It's not like it hard."

"Because you have any right to talk about manners right now, Erik," Charles said, and Erik flipped him the finger and took a long pull from his beer.

To say the night got worse from there would be an understatement. At one point Steve, clearly just trying to make conversation, made the mistake of asking Erik about his family; shortly afterwards, Erik made a pointed crack about the university honor code, which Steve met with a cold, steely glare. Charles got up to go to the bathroom about half an hour in, and came back to find the two of them staring at each other, Erik's hand flexing in and out of a fist at his side, Steve's whole back tense.

"Another round, then?" Charles said, as lightly as he could manage, and received a grunt (Erik) and a surprisingly demonstrative wrist-grab (Steve) in response.

In short, it was not exactly the meeting of the minds Charles had been hoping for.

"I fucking hate him," Erik said when they got home. Charles--who'd intended to go back to Steve's house, but somehow ended up on the back of Erik's bike instead--sighed and unwound his scarf. "Like, break up with him right away hate him. How can you possibly be dating this asshole?"

"You," Charles said, "made a fool of me tonight, just so we're entirely clear. I understand that he's maybe not your favorite person, but that's no reason to--"

"Not my favorite person? Charles, when you went to the bathroom he spent like five minutes trying to tell me about how you guys watch fucking, I don't even--fucking sports television together or some shit."

"We do," Charles said. "I like it. It's nice. You just need to get to know him."

"You like it," Erik repeated flatly. "Okay, tell you what, why don't you name me one player on the New England Patriots who--no, no, you know what, check that. Name me one player in the NFL, Charles, and I'll drop this."

"You're being a dick," Charles said.

"Go ahead, I'll wait."

"Fine," Charles snapped, "fine, Erik, I can't do that, is that what you want to hear? That doesn't mean we can't--"

"I bet he talks over you--"

"Oh, like you're doing right now?"

"You don't like sports!" Erik yelled, which effectively shut Charles up. "You like…science and pretentious books and stupid bands, and really, really awful sci-fi movies, which I know because I fucking pay attention, okay? You'd talk about American politics before you'd talk about the score on the Patriots game, and I know how you feel about American politics."

"I know this might come as a surprise to you," Charles said, "but sometimes, when you're dating someone, you do this thing where you attempt to cultivate shared interests."

"Yeah, you fucking do," Erik growled. "But it looks like it's all you doing the cultivating, which, hey, maybe that's your thing, maybe that's good for you, but the Charles I know doesn't like to be treated like he's some kind of project--"

"He doesn't treat me like I'm a project!"

"You don't listen when he talks," Erik said, "and fine, okay, maybe he's fucking you stupid, I wouldn't know, but I fucking listened, and that guy clearly doesn't know shit about you."

"I," Charles said, and stopped, furious. It was true, that was the worst part--Charles liked Steve, he really did, but he did a certain amount of compromising on Steve's behalf, spent a certain amount of time shutting his mouth and going along. Steve liked things his way, had his order and his routines, and Charles didn't want to rock the boat more than he had to. He was sure, if he just worked at it hard enough, that these things would become things he cared about--that Steve would become something he cared about. He just needed a little more time.

"See," Erik said, jabbing Charles in the chest with a finger, "see, you're not saying anything because you know I'm fucking right--"

"What do you even care?" Charles said. "Seriously, what could it possibly matter to you?"

There was a pause, and Charles braced himself for the brotherhood speech he knew would present itself any moment. It didn't come; Erik opened his mouth, closed it again, and stared. His brow furrowed, and his mouth parted again--just slightly, lips moving soundlessly, like he was trying to work something out.

"Erik?" Charles said, and Erik's eyes went wide and almost frightened. He took a step back and his face flushed a deep, dark red; Charles actually looked round to make sure no one had broken in. The room was empty but for the two of them, not even any pledges wandering around, and Charles looked back to Erik, concerned. "Erik, are you alright?"

"I…shou--don't," Erik said. "I don't. Care, I mean. Who you date. I don't. Why would I? I never…have…but you...because it's your…oh, god. I don't. It's fine. I don't care."

"Al…right?" Charles said. He took a step forward and Erik instantly responded with a step back, tripping over himself in the process and nearly hitting the ground. When Charles reached out to steady him, he flinched. "Erik, really, what is it?"

"I'm good," Erik said, and stumbled backward away. He braced himself on the wall, body tensed for flight. "Fine. I'm just gonna, I'm going to bed," and he vanished up the stairs before Charles could say anything else.

"Dear god," Charles said to the empty room, "is it possible that he's actually snapped?"

Naturally, no one answered him. He sighed, and went to hang up his scarf.

--


Steve fucked like he did everything else, which was to say: earnest, sincere, and like he was trying to win something. He liked things traditional, and always insisted on topping--he had the annoying tendency to cling a little too close when he came, but Charles could get used to that, didn't mind it so much. It wasn't earth-shattering sex by any stretch of the imagination, but it was good, satisfying.

It also never varied. It took Charles a month to really get bored.

"Hey," he said one night, stretched across Steve's bed. They were in the foreplay portion of the evening, and Charles knew without a shadow of a doubt what Steve's next move would be--even in this, he liked his routine, the things he knew worked. "Can I ask you a strange question?"

Steve lifted his head from where he was trailing kisses between Charles' thighs and squinted. "Is now really the best time?"

"Well," Charles said, "I mean, it doesn't--yes, I suppose, sort of. It might be hard to bring this up in, ah, another context."

"Hmm," Steve said. "Okay, then, shoot."

He propped his chin up on one elbow and commenced in tracing absent patterns on Charles' stomach; Charles swallowed hard and resisted the urge to pull away. He had tried, a number of times, to figure out why that particular touch made him uncomfortable--if it was just the intimacy of it, or if it was (damnably, still) the fact that he'd rather be on the receiving end of that kind of tenderness from someone else. Either way, it was one of those things Steve tended to do, and Charles was determined to like it, no matter the effort it took.

"Do you have any fantasies?" he blurted, and could feel himself flush.

Steve raised an eyebrow. "Fantasies like what?"

"You know," Charles said, waving a hand, "I mean. Ah. Sexual….fantasies."

Steve blinked; when he spoke again, his words were careful. "Huh. Is there something you're trying to tell me here?"

"No!" Charles said too quickly, "no, it's not--I mean, it's great. It's fantastic. Really. I just…I don't know, I rather thought this was the kind of conversation people had as things went on?"

"Sometimes I forget how young you are," Steve said. Charles bristled despite himself (that guy clearly doesn't know shit about you he thought in Erik's voice, as sharp as it'd been when he'd said it) and forcibly didn't snap.

"I'm afraid I'll need you to elaborate."

"I'm sorry," Steve said, laughing on it a little, "don't be mad; I think it's cute when you do things like this. I just, well, It's just sort of a silly question, isn't it? I mean, obviously there are things I've…thought about…but I don't really think that has any place here."

"I was of the distinct impression that we were having sex," Charles said . "Is there a better place to have these discussions?"

"Is this really a thing for you?" Steve said. "I mean, look, Charles, if there's something you want I'd rather you just said so--"

"That's not the fucking point!"

"See," Steve said, still smiling, "this is what I mean about you being young. Don't scowl, it's not a bad thing--it's just, I think when you're a little older--"

"I can't tell you how much I appreciate being treated like a child," Charles said, "really, it's so refreshing, thanks so much."

"Oh, come on, don't be that way," Steve said. "I just meant--look, I don't have any fantasies that come to mind now, that's my point. I'll let you know if I think of anything."

"Fine," Charles said. He meant it to come out on the chilly side, but Steve must have missed his inflection; he smiled, clearly thinking the whole moment was behind them.

"Great," he said, "can I get back to what I was doing now?"

He dipped his head down before Charles could answer, mouth hot and familiar on Charles' dick, and Charles closed his eyes. Steve fucked him slow and sweet that night, murmuring praise in his ear; Charles clenched around him and kept his eyes fixed on the spiderweb of cracks in the ceiling, feeling too full but dragged empty all at once.

--


Three months into what Erik would, nonsensically, later refer to as "The Dead Years," Steve said, "We need to talk."

"Mmmkay," Charles said, holding the phone to his ear with his shoulder. He had a book spread open across one leg, a beer balanced unsteadily on the other, and fifteen pages of notes littered across his desk; if he could just find the fucking connecting thread here than he could finish this bloody--"Wait, what?"

"Doing homework while we're talking again?" Steve said.

"I have homework," Charles said, "it's a thing college students--do you mean we need to talk, or we need to talk?"

"I'm not sure if I see the distinction."

"Is this about the partying again?" Charles said, looking at the beer on his leg and feeling vaguely guilty. "Because, not that I don't appreciate your point, but I maintain that I'm--"

"No," Steve said, sighing on it, "no, it's not about that."

"Oh," Charles said. "Um, alright. Do you want to…meet me somewhere, then?"

"I can just come by the house," Steve said. "Will you be around in twenty minutes?"

Charles phone beeped; he pulled it away and saw the words Impending Doom flash across the screen. He frowned--Erik was definitely supposed be in class--and said, "Yes, of course, twenty minutes is fine. I'll see you then?"

"Sounds good," Steve said, and Charles pushed the button to switch the call without saying goodbye.

"No I will not do your Philosophy homework so you can get high," he said, without waiting for Erik to speak, "and yes, for the thousandth time, you do actually have to pass this course to graduate. I understand that you're not fond of the humanities, but you do have to attend at least a few of classes."

Erik didn't answer; in the silence, Charles could hear distant car horns, the faint rush of tires scraping pavement. Every muscle in his stomach tensed up half a second before a low, agonized groan filtered across the phone.

He sat up so fast that the beer tumbled off his leg and smacked into the wall, spilling everywhere. He didn't notice.

"Erik? Erik? Erik, answer me, what's happened--"

"Motorcycle," Erik said, choking on it, "landed bad. I--wrist--need you to--fuck."

"Okay," Charles said, throwing himself to his feet and casting around desperately for his car keys, "okay, okay, try not to--try not to move anything, okay, please tell me you were wearing your helmet, don't fall asleep, are you--no, wait, why are you on the phone with me? You shouldn't have hung up on the 911 people, you're supposed to--keep talking, right, Erik, don't stop talking, oh god you're not talking I'm talking, which hospital are they taking you to? Is the ambulance there yet? Did they tell you?"

"No ambulance," Erik said around a sharp, tortured hiss, "Need you to--get me. Not that bad. Ambulance…Jesus fuck oh god…it's. Expensive. Not worth it."

"Expensive," Charles repeated dumbly, "expensive, what the fuck do you mean expensive, oh my god you are concussed how many time have I told you about that stupid--bloody fuck, do you think I won't pay for your fucking ambulance? Jesus--sodding--Christ, where are you, you've got to be concussed, how fucking stupid--"

"Route 14," Erik said, "by the big tree--"

"I am calling 911," Charles said, "and I will meet you--"

"No, I want--"

"I don't give a fuck what you want, Erik, you've crashed your bloody motorcycle! You're obviously in pain and the hell if I will let you die on the side of the road because you didn't feel like paying a sodding ambulance fee--"

"Please," Erik said.

His voice was a pained rasp, and Charles froze. In the three years he'd known Erik, Charles could count the on one hand times he'd heard him outright ask for something--say please like he really meant it--and it shook him, hearing it now. He rocked back on his heels in the doorway of his room, one shoe on, car keys dangling from his hand, caught as always between the right thing to do and the things Erik wanted.

Which was stupid, really. It wasn't like he'd ever denied Erik anything.

"Fine," he snapped, "fine, you fucking--bloody--I swear to god, Erik, if you are dead when I get there I will, I don't know what I'll do, but it'll be--do not hang up the phone, do you understand me? Do not hang up this fucking phone."

"Kay," Erik breathed. He made the groaning sound again, the one that made Charles want to be sick all over the floor, and then Charles was down the stairs and dragging Logan and Scott to his car.

--


"Yo, I got skidmarks," Logan said, "he's probably around the bend by the--oh, dude, shit."

"Jesus fuck," Scott said, pulling Charles' car off the road. He'd snatched the keys and gotten behind the wheel without a word back at the house; Charles hadn't been able to focus on arguing with him then, and now he was glad of it. Adding a panic-borne second wreck to the mix wouldn't have helped anyone.

Erik's bike was on the shoulder of what passed for the highway out here, one wheel in the air, banged all to hell, and Erik himself was crumpled against a tree about ten feet away, curled around himself. He was, at least, holding his helmet, but he wasn't moving, and his end of the phone had been dead almost three minutes.

To say Charles threw himself out of the car would be a serious understatement, but he'd have time to be embarrassed later.

"Erik!" he yelled, running to him and dropping to his knees. . "Erik, you stupid fuck, I swear to god if I have to spend the rest of my life telling people I killed my best friend by going alone with his bloodiest idea of all time then I don't know what I'll do, you stupid sodding fuck Jesus fucking Christ you bastard wake up wake up wake up--"

"Dude, chill," Erik murmured, "I'm up, I'm up," and if Charles made a little sobbing noise in the back of his throat, he wasn't planning on copping to it, ever.

"Fuck," he said, relief so thick he nearly choked on it, "fuck, Erik, I thought--"

"Yeah," Erik said, "there was like a…crash? Because I, my head feels…and my wrist like, it hurts but it…doesn't hurt? Like it hurts too much to…hurt."

"There was an," Charles said, and found his voice stuck on the word accident. "You, yes, you crashed. I think your wrist is broken."

"Nah," Erik said, "it's cool, look," and then all his muscles shifted slightly. Charles realized he was trying to move the bloody thing a split second too late.

"No!" he said, but Erik was already making a noise somewhere between a scream and a groan, head tipped back with it, body spasming. Charles stared at him, frozen in horror, hand tightening helplessly on his shoulder; he said, "Shh, stop, it's alright, Erik, it's alright," even though it clearly, obviously wasn't.

"Jesus Christ, why the fuck did you let me do that, fucking fucking fucking shit fuck--"

"I didn't mean to, I'm sorry, you moved before I could help it--"

"Step aside, Prof," Logan said, "you don't know what you're doing, you're gonna make it worse. And Erik, dude, you gotta quit moving."

Erik, cheeks tearstained and face bloodied, peered past Charles for the first time since he'd arrived. "Wait--fucking ow--wait. Bro, did you…did you bring pledges to my motorcycle accident?"

"Look," Logan said, pushing Charles indelicately out of the way, "I get that you're the president of me or whatever, but my Ma's an EMT, and I know more about this shit than you're ever gonna forget. So how 'bout what I tell you to do and stop fuckin' moving, yeah?"

"I didn't know your mom was an EMT," Scott said, while Erik blinked in frank surprise at being talked to like that by a freshman.

"Yeah, well, maybe you should ask me shit sometimes instead of sitting around like the world's douchiest houseplant." Logan said. "Okay, dude, we're gonna start with the basics--what's your name?"

"Erik Lehnsherr," Erik said automatically. "Magneto. Shitshow, sometimes."

"That's what my sister calls him," Charles added, when Logan's eyebrows shot up. "He's not just--I mean, obviously he is just, but--"

"Your sister sounds like my kinda girl," Logan said, "now shut up. Erik, man, how many fingers am I holding up?"

"Four," Erik said, and then, "two, six, four again--can we stop with the fucking fingers, Jesus fuck my arm is going to fall off--"

"Don't be a pussy, bro, bitchiness is a sign of concussion. I mean, I know it's just you, but Jesus. What day is it?"

"The day a pledge called me a pussy," Erik muttered. "Loss-of-authority day."

"Just answer the goddamn question."

"Shit, uh, Wednesday, fucking goddamn shit fuck don't touch that you fucking fucker--"

"Logan," Charles said, "do you really have to--he's obviously in pain, can't we just take him to the--"

"Summers," Logan snapped, "take the Prof over that way or something, he's fucking with my concentration, and he's not gonna want to see the next part. Oh, and give me your scarf."

"Why?"

"I got a dude bleeding from the face here and you're asking what I'm gonna do with your ugly hipster clothes?"

"This is the weirdest day of my fucking life," Scott muttered, but he handed Logan his scarf and led Charles away by the arm. Well, no--really he dragged Charles away by the arm, though Charles really was trying to go along. It just wasn't the easiest thing he'd ever done, leaving Erik gasping in pain in the hands of a guy they both thought of as either 'Wolverine' or 'Jesus, This Guy.'

"You want to talk about it?" Scott said, when Charles finally broke his gaze away from Erik and Logan.

"Talk about what?"

Scott gave him a long, measured look. "There are a lot of things I could say here, I want you to know that."

"Can't I," Charles said, waving his hand, "I don't know, command you not to?"

Scott just laughed. "Hate to break it with you, but Magneto's a lot scarier than you've ever been, and even from him I don't take much shit."

"He'll kill me for this, but I think you can probably start calling him Erik, given the circumstances."

"Should I be calling him your boyfriend?"

"I--what--why do people always--"

"Protip," Scott said, "running out of a car screaming somebody's name like you're gonna die? Notttt the best way to establish that you're not totally gay for them. And, look, I don't care or anything, but I kind of think that the rest of the guys have a right to know if you two are, well, riding the shit out of each other."

Charles opened his mouth to object to the truly heinous turn of phrase there--who said things like that?--but was interrupted by the sound of Erik screaming. He turned at once, and stopped from running back across the grass only by Scott's sudden, wrenching grip on his shoulder; Logan yelled "Sorry, dude, chill out, just splinting it so he doesn't pass out when we go for the car, he's cool," but Charles couldn't relax until Erik grunted out a strangled, "Fine, stay there."

Scott's face said a lot of things, but most of them, if Charles was honest about it, boiled down to I see you see my point.

"We're not dating," Charles said. "If that's what you want to hear."

"It's not," Scott said. "Fuck, that's even worse."

"I am decidedly aware," Charles growled, surprised by the fury in his own voice, "now let go of me."

Scott took a step away from him, hands and eyebrows in the air. "Hey, whatever, it's your funeral."

Charles looked at the upturned bike, at Logan, bent in a crouch, at Erik's stupid forced tough-guy face, identifiable from this distance. The word funeral bounced around haphazardly in his mind, crashing up against memories he mostly kept buried, these days, coupling up with the word accident to paint a picture of something he spent a lot of time trying not to consider.

"I'm sorry," Scott said, sounding sincere, for once.

"Aren't we all," Charles said, and went to steal Logan's cigarettes from the car.

--


Getting Erik to the hospital, unfortunately, involved telling Erik something Charles had spent the better part of two years keeping under his hat.

"You bought me health insurance?"

"Well, to be fair," Charles said, "I didn't buy it, the school offers it to students. I just…opted you in and paid for it without telling you."

"What the fuck is wrong with you?"

"Oh, I don't know," Charles said, "maybe I had this terrible thought that you might someday get into a motorcycle accident and, in an attempt to avoid hospital bills that could have been easily subsidizedtry to tell me that you could fix a broken wrist with ice--"

"We don't know that it's broken!" Erik snapped. "And fuck you!"

"Uh, no, we totally do know that it's broken," Logan said. "Sky is blue and grass is green and your wrist is fucking busted, dude, get in the car."

"Shh," Scott said, "can't you see Mommy and Daddy are fighting?"

Erik, who was leaning so heavily on Logan's shoulder that he was more or less being carried, looked like he was going to argue for a second; he tensed like he was planning on moving forward. But Erik had a terrible tendency towards talking with his hands, and a second later all the blood drained out of his face, leaving him sheet-white and gasping.

"Hospital, right now," Charles said. "You can be angry with me later, we're going to the fucking hospital."

"Yeah, okay," Erik muttered, swaying. "But we're not….fuck…we're not done. About you and being a dick about money. We're like--sticking a pin in this fight, oh god I'm gonna puke."

"Nope," Logan said, opening the door to the backseat and manhandling Erik inside. "You're gonna sit right there, and put your head against the seat, and the Prof here is gonna sit next to you and make sure you don't fucking move. Right, Prof?"

"Yes," Charles said, "yes, that's right." He rounded the car and climbed in the other side, and Erik slumped towards him almost instantly, clearly more or less involuntarily. Charles put a hesitant arm around his shoulder, wanted to say a hundred things, but what came out of his mouth was: "Alright, it's alright. Stay where you are. I'm on it. I've got you."

--


The ride to the hospital (and the subsequent skulking around said hospital, looking for Erik and trying not to panic) would blur in Charles' memory later. At the time, he was caught up in the strange immediacy of waiting, concern and anger and a sharp, illogical brand of fear tangling his thoughts; in retrospect, it would just be a mess of overcrowded holding rooms and terrible, machine-purchased coffee, a few scoldings from well-intentioned but irritated nurses who had better things to do with their time than reassure an overexcitable frat boy.

There was a moment, when Scott stopped to return the car keys after going back with Logan to pick up Erik's bike, that Charles realized he'd never be able to call either one of them by their pledge names again. That he remembered; that, as it turned out, was hard to forget.

Erik was released from the hospital three hours after they arrived, brightly high on prescription painkillers, with a cast encasing his right wrist. He slept for most of the ride home, face pressed against the passenger seat window. Charles couldn't stop looking at him, little glances between red lights. It was ridiculous--it wasn't as though he hadn't been aware of his feelings for Erik for years--but something about seeing him that way, cracked in places Charles would never have thought to look, laid him bare.

Charles had thought the worst part of being hopelessly in love with someone was the hopeless part. He hadn't imagined that, regardless of the circumstance, the difficult bit might actually be the love.

--


In an unfortunate turn of circumstance, Steve Rogers was in the front yard when they got home.

"Shit," Charles said, "shit, shit, shit."

"Hmm?" Erik said. "I feel like…potatoes."

"No, you feel like you're hungover, which makes you want potatoes because we've done some kind of serious--Pavlovian--damage to ourselves. It hardly matters in any case, because you're not, so you don't," Charles said, running on autopilot. He was trying to calculate how long it had been since he'd told Steve to drop by in 20 minutes, and the results were not looking good. "It's very scary that I knew what you meant there, by the way, so in recompense I ask only that you please stay exactly where you are and not do anything rash for the next minute or five."

"You're funny," Erik said, "potatoes are funny," and Charles figured he didn't have much to worry about on that front.

"Steve," he called, getting out of the car. Steve waved, and Captain, who'd been running for a stick, bounded up to greet him. Charles bent down to scratch behind his ears, trying to convince himself it wasn't to avoid looking at his owner. "I'm so sorry I didn't call, I should have called, it's only that we had a bit of an emergency--"

"Yeah," Steve said, "one of the kids told me. The one with the hair, I think? Can't remember his name."

"Logan," Charles said.

"Sure," Steve said, "whoever. Is Erik?"

Erik, who was, Charles privately decided, the kind of determined impossible hellspawn who was summoned by the sound of his name, chose that moment to climb out of the car.

"Hellooooo," he called, stumbling toward them, "Charles, Charles, you left me like--like a thing in a car, aren't you supposed to like. Um. Windows. Crack a window! That's a thing, right?"

"God, Charles, is he drunk?" Steve said. "I mean, look, I understand you blowing me off for a medical emergency, but if you were just out partying, that's kind of different."

"Hey," Erik said, "hey, hey, hey, hey. Dude. You know what? I think--wait for it, wait for it--that you suck. Yeah, that's right, I said it, I'll say it again, because you like, totally fucking suck, that's just like, the rules. Sucky McSuckface. You suuuuuck."

"Great," Steve said, "well, I guess that answers my question."

"He's not drunk," Charles said, "for Christ's sake, there's blood on his shirt, his wrist's in a cast, how could you possibly think--"

"Suck suck suck suck, suck suck suck suck suck suuuuuuck," Erik sang out, to the tune of "Come On Eileen."

"--okay, well, yes, I see you point, he's drugged out of his mind," Charles finished smoothly. "But, for what it's worth, they're prescription drugs that were actually prescribed to him. Erik, please shut up for a moment, will you?"

"You know what's awesome?" Erik said. "The sky is awesome. Like. The awesomest. Way better than this dude, Charles, why are we talking to this dude? I don't like him. Can we eat the potatoes now?"

Steve had an expression on his face that resembled, for lack of a better word, disappointment, and Captain whined, butting his head up against Charles hand.

"Alright," he said, "ah, Steve, I really am sorry to make you wait again--"

"I wasn't here the whole time," Steve pointed out, "just so we're clear on that."

"Of course," Charles said, "I know, I didn't imagine--look, I'm just going to take him up to his room and then I'll be back down, yes?"

"I can get to my room myself," said Erik, sounding put out. "I am like. Independent and shit. I can do it."

"I'm sure you can," Charles said patiently, "but just to make sure, do you mind telling me where your room is?"

Erik looked at him blankly, and Charles sighed. "Come on, then. Steve, I'll be right back."

He deposited Erik on his bed with less trouble than he'd anticipated ("Hey, you smell good, you're really short did you know you're short Charles--wait, are you gonna go hang out with that tool? Because he is a tool, don't leave me here, I don't want to--oh wait, this pillow is soft as fuck,") and ran back downstairs. Steve was still standing in the yard, hand on Captain's head, looking as unhappy as Charles had ever seen him.

"I should have called," Charles said. "I'm sorry. But, in my defense, given the circumstances--"

"I'm not angry about that," Steve said. "I'm not angry at all, really, but I won't lie to you--it does make what I came here to do that much easier."

Charles' stomach sank, white-hot and mortified in anticipation. "I don't suppose there's any chance you just wanted to spend some time on my front lawn, is there?"

"See," Steve said, shaking his head, "that's it, that's the whole problem, right there. I really like you, Charles; you know, if things had been different, I think I could have loved you."

"But," Charles said. He meant it as a question, but it came out flat, a foregone conclusion. Steve's answering smile was small and sad, and Charles knew what he was going to say before he said it.

"It's just really hard," Steve said, reaching out to take his hand, "to love someone who's already in love with someone else."
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