This X-Men story is slash fan fiction. It contains adult concepts and sensuality between men.
If you're underage or offended by such things, you have been warned not to read the fiction.


This was written for the Xmmficathon for maharetr. Her request: Charles/Erik. Between X1 and X2: Eric waiting patiently for each of Charles's visits, Charles patiently and stubbornly working his way through the red tape every time to go see him. Bonus points for intimate flashbacks (I imagine it would be rather difficult to have sex in the cell! :P) but it can be as explicit or as 'they're devoted heterosexual life partners' as you like :)

Stalemate

Cousin Shelley


They're not going to let me in.

Charles didn't send that any further than the very fringes of Erik's consciousness, a technique he used often to communicate without encroaching on a person's private thoughts. No reply came.

He didn't really expect one, but he'd hoped. Erik wasn't exactly accommodating at the best of times, so now he supposed he was being deliberately difficult. That he got no sense of the man at all besides his presence was a bit worrying. Perhaps he was just asleep. When he'd projected thoughts to someone asleep, however, he could usually tell they were asleep with the way his message warped and reflected back to him from an unconscious or dreaming brain. That hadn't happened now. What if something were wrong?

That they were giving him this much trouble about his visit added to his worry. He'd expected it, of course, but perhaps not with this degree of resistance. What if--he was starting to think like Erik, he realized. Conspiracies, grand plans, everything with a hidden, sinister side.

Once more: I'm here, but I won't be able to see you.

Nothing.

Do try to cooperate with the screws, Erik. I know you have it in you.

Ah, there he was. Charles felt the slightest burst of amusement and he could picture Erik with the corners of his mouth turned up slightly into something that could be a smile or a smirk, depending on how well you knew him. That sign was what Charles needed to feel all right about leaving.

The following day, Charles returned with a lawyer. She was a brilliant young mutant who had the ability to understand a new language almost immediately, among other mental feats. So coming up with every legal argument imaginable, the law a language in itself, was hardly a challenge for her.

When he arrived with her, he told Erik, I'm here and again got no reply. He didn't worry this time or try to coax a response from him, because the guards and the administration of the facility were keeping him occupied by seriously trying his patience. Their main argument had been that unless Charles expected someone to carry him in to see Lensherr or he intended to crawl, there was simply no way it was going to be allowed. His wheelchair could be a deadly weapon.

He had agreed about the danger his chair posed, and had brought his own completely non-metal chair the first time he'd visited, anticipating the problem. But they weren't sure that this chair was acceptable or that it met some arbitrary standard that they failed to adequately explain, despite its lack of metal fittings and components. His lawyer argued that their refusal to either provide a way for him to visit his friend or accept the solution Charles offered meant that they were not only depriving Erik of the right to visitors (a right they themselves had established) but they were also discriminating against the disabled. The lawsuit that could result from that was probably not one they were eager to fight, Charles and his lawyer assured them.

Finally, when they could find no real objection to the chair, they agreed to let Charles use it but suddenly had a number of other security concerns. And he could tell they were already dreaming up ways to keep him out on other grounds, if those didn't pass muster. Weren't they? Or was that Erik's influence again, making him assume the worst? He had the disturbing thought that if Erik had been something less threatening to them, like a psychotic serial killer, he'd have probably gotten in without much ado.

I'm back, but I'm not sure they're going to let me in.

Good. Stop coming.

At least Erik sounded like himself.

Finally, they'd exhausted their reasons for resisting the visit just before visiting hours ended. He argued that since Erik was the only prisoner in this particular maximum security unit, and since he'd gone to such trouble, could they not just make an exception? That went about as well as he'd expected.

Still, there was a little time left and he insisted on his right to it. One of the guards reluctantly pushed Charles in. His instinct was to tell Erik they were finally letting him in, but he didn't. He wasn't in the mood for more protests. He knew he'd get them, but why invite them before he was even in the same room with the man? When they finally got through the passages and the elaborate mazework of plastic designed to keep the dangerous criminal Magneto from being able to bend the girders and bring the whole building down around their ears, the guard deposited him with a slight push and left. Charles imagined him dusting his hands off as he walked back the way they'd come. Good riddance.

"If you think I'm surprised, you're wrong," Erik said. "I knew you were stubborn enough to handle them and their petty protests."

"I had to make sure you were holding up, now didn't I?"

"No, you needn't do any such thing. If our roles were reversed --"

"If our roles were reversed, you'd make sure I was all right even if you had to do it covertly."

Eric only grunted softly in answer. He stared at the table, making Charles wonder if this entire visit would consist of--

"Why did you come here, Charles, really?" He didn't move but he lifted his eyes. "You enjoy seeing me surrounded by all this dead plastic?"

"You know full well there's nothing about this I enjoy. You're just being an arse."

"Am I?"

"You are. And you certainly do it well."

"Perhaps I'm entitled." Erik looked around and then his eyes met Charles' again. "If ever I had good reason."

"Erik, for God's sake. What did you expect?"

Erik didn't reply. He looked down at the table again. Charles rolled up to the other side and stared at him for a long time.

"What, Charles? Say what's on your mind. But you should know that everything you say is being recorded and parsed and analyzed by someone, somewhere with nothing better to do than listen to two old fools blather on."

Yes, I know. Fortunately, there's no need to talk.

"Don't." Erik closed his eyes and leaned forward, as if exhausted.

Charles frowned as the guard appeared and announced that time was up. That was entirely too short, and in fact shorter than he was sure he was entitled to. He'd come back with his lawyer tomorrow, the very moment he was eligible to visit, as there was surely no way they could foil him then even though the window for visits was small.

"I'll be back tomorrow," he said, as he was pushed past him.

"Don't," Erik said again, but to Charles he sounded less than convincing.

***


"Are we going to play games, Charles?" Erik looked at the gift Charles brought, a chessboard with its plastic pieces, and smiled. "How appropriate."

Charles merely looked at him with a long-suffering expression and set up the board. Erik had always admired the way he could look irritated and pleased at the same time.

"I thought they weren't going to let you in again today. What were their reasons this time?" He watched Charles pull back one side of his mouth and flare his nostrils, then exhale like it might be a strain to do so. He did this when he was irritated, as if he'd smelled something unsavory.

"They kept acting as if I might be a metal smuggler despite all the scans to the contrary. I was tempted to ask them if they'd like to perform a cavity search or perhaps exploratory surgery. Fortunately, I refrained or I suspect I'd still be out there."

Erik sighed. "There's no need to subject yourself to any of this and you know it, Charles. Why are you doing this? Is it to gloat? Because it's premature. I haven't lost. They haven't won. We both know this."

"You know I'm not gloating, and as for the rest . . . when will you stop thinking of our existence as some kind of battle always to be fought?"

"When they stop making it necessary." He moved his pawn forward two squares and looked up at Charles through his lashes.

"Everything isn't a duel, Erik. Everything isn't a fight." Charles mirrored his move.

"Isn't it? Two old friends on opposite sides of the board, playing a game of strategy--what is this if not a duel?"

"I have never wanted to fight with you. You're the one who keeps widening that battleground."

"But you keep showing up on the battleground--you're here, aren't you? And it must be satisfying in a way, Charles."

"I get no satisfaction out of seeing you locked up, and you know it. You're also not going to goad me into leaving."

Erik leaned on his elbows, clasped his hands together and rested his lips against his knuckles. "I realize you get no satisfaction out of my imprisonment. You're a bit too good for that. But being this close to me when I'm powerless, that has to mean something to you, surely."

Charles looked up and his expression did not change. But Erik saw the entire stance of his body shift, something most people would have missed. He alone heard Charles' reply.

No matter where you are, Erik, when I'm near you . . . you know you're anything but powerless.

Erik regarded him for a long time, not surprised at the physical reaction he had. Something like butterflies in the stomach and a few in his chest, and one or two a bit lower. Looking into Charles' eyes as he was now, he let his thought go, let it be pulled up into the tiny whirlwind that was Charles, there waiting just beyond the edge of his conscious thought. Yes, I know.

Charles leaned back, and Erik noted that the slightly irritated look was gone now. Now he only looked pleased. Erik closed his eyes and then felt a gentle nudge from Charles. Perhaps best not to close their eyes, since they were being watched. But if they just sat staring at one another, that might arouse suspicion, too. So every now and then one of them moved a chess piece. Had anyone been scrutinizing, Erik realized, they might have thought neither man even understood the rules of chess, because they were merely shuffling pieces around on the board. Some moves probably weren't even legal--Erik couldn't be bothered to pull his concentration away from Charles long enough to be sure.

Once he gave Charles permission, they went together to happier times. Their journey took them back to before the school was even built, before they knew Jean or Scott or any of the students, when they lived in a small house with a tiny, well-landscaped yard, and spent much of their time together making plans. The school, Cerebro, all that they'd accomplish.

In Erik's mind, the images and feelings were so clear, he could even make out the tiny embroidery on their bedspread. It was an off-white cotton with tiny bunches of 3 flowers, dozens of them. He remembered Charles joking with him when he'd spotted it, that he could bend steel but was admiring the most feminine quilt in the shop. He told Charles that it did seem kind of funny, didn't it? And Charles had said ironic and that had made it even funnier. They'd laughed so much in those days.

As a young man, he could still laugh without bitterness sometimes, though only with Charles. Now, he could laugh, but he was only ever half in it. Nothing seemed as funny as the things that seemed horrifying.

I wish I could give that back to you, Erik. Your ability to hope.

Erik pushed, not wanting to go down that road, and they instead thought of the quilt again, how warm it was, how comforting, how they'd been so content beneath it. How when he told Charles he liked it because it reminded him so much of the quilt that had been on his mother's bed, Charles had purchased it without another word and carried it out to the car.

That was the car that Charles had been driving, the car that Erik would give anything for them not to have bought.

He took a shaky breath, and looked down at the chessboard, didn't realize he was moving one of Charles' pieces until his fingers left it. He'd have never believed back then that one day every memory that brought him joy would also, in its own way, carry pain with it. Even with all he'd been through, it had seemed to him as a young man that happiness was something that was self-contained and whole, and you were happy, you made a happy memory, or you didn't.

Now he knew that the most joyous memories he had might be even more joyous because of the pain that was inherent in them. When he remembered the long walks he and Charles used to take, it came with the pain of that loss built in. They still went after the accident. They tried hard to do the things they'd always done. But some things were different.

They couldn't get halfway up Thorn Hill and decide to race, and end up laughing at the top, out of breath, each claiming to have touched the lamppost first, and Charles accusing Erik of bending it toward his hand to gain an advantage. They could no longer share that or so many other things, except in this way, in memory.

And beneath the quilt, on top of it, Charles' legs, wrapped around him, pulling him down, heels digging into his hips, another thing they only ever shared in memory now. Made all the sweeter because now it was all there was, memory.

Charles moved a chess piece, accidentally knocking his own bishop off the board. It rolled into his lap, clattered to the floor.

And you know what I would give back to you, Charles.

Charles' eyes closed then, and Erik took the opportunity to look at his face openly, just to get to know it again, the new lines, the lighter eyebrows, the skin sagging a little beneath his eyes. When Charles' eyes opened, Erik stored away what he'd discovered, and joined him again, even though they'd gone through this so many times, a pointless conversation because nothing could be changed.

"It's the 'what ifs,' Charles," he'd said one day, one of his angriest days, "that eat men alive." It had almost swallowed him, thinking what if he'd been with Charles that day.

"Don't even think such a thing, Erik," Charles said. "You'd have been hurt, too. What if you were hurt as badly or worse than this? I can't bear to think it."

"It wouldn't have happened like that. I could have stopped-"

"You don't know that. Had you seen it coming, I have no doubt you could have stopped it. But your reflexes, Erik, are human. And they most likely would not have been fast enough. Please stop thinking about it. There was nothing you could have done."

Erik slammed his fist down on the table. Thought but didn't say I could have, convinced as he was that he'd have kept the metal from crunching around them, he'd have protected Charles. He'd have made sure he could walk away from the accident.

Charles had always maintained that there was no point in speculating. He probably wouldn't have been fast enough. It was no one's fault. Erik's theory was that he'd have simply known just before the metal changed, before it buckled and hurt them.

How many days and nights had he spent agonizing over why he didn't go that day, why he didn't just ride along? And how he'd give anything, anything to be in that car and able to test his theory.

Charles put his king down on the board a little harder than necessary, and their eyes met. Erik nodded and licked his lower hip, his eyelids dropped a tiny bit and he forced himself to move away from there, and reluctantly let it go once again, the 'what ifs' and 'if onlys' and 'I'm sorrys.'

He let Charles take him to a place, long after the accident, one of the last happy moments they had together, in fact. Erik had been having nightmares about the camps, about what he believed more and more was a coming holocaust, and as a result was tired early in the evening. He sat on the couch, and upon realizing the remote was across the room, opted not to watch the news.

"Erik, it's not like you'd have to get up and get it."

He'd retrieved the remote plenty of times before, but on that night, he just didn't care. He just wanted to sleep or cry or just sit. It was alright sometimes to just sit, wasn't it?

Charles had sensed his mood, locked the wheels of his chair and transferred himself onto the couch next to Erik. Erik remembered smiling at how he'd looked in the white undershirt he wore, how his muscles had looked as he'd used his arms to slide next to him. He guessed most people had no idea just how well-developed Charles' arms were. His chair was electric, but getting in and out of it required upper body strength. The suit jackets he always wore hid his definition well.

Erik reached over and let a hand slide down one toned arm, then he'd put his arm around Charles shoulders, grateful for the companionship.

Eventually, they'd ended up prone on the couch beneath a blanket, though only wrapped in each other's arms, not talking, just kissing occasionally and not being alone. That night, Erik had so acutely felt the ache of Charles going in a different direction from him, being pulled away from him. Or maybe it was him being pulled away from Charles.

He felt it coming, the oppression, the persecution, but Charles could still see past it, to the hope. And Erik, while he had faith in Charles, had no faith in the rest of the world. And he couldn't, in good conscience, stand by and pretend that he did.

But that night, he so badly wanted to hang on to Charles, and so he had.

A few weeks later, he'd gone.

Charles sucked in a breath, sniffed, backed away from the table an inch or two. "Erik."

"Charles . . . ." What could he say? It always came to this when they were together in this way, and it was sharper now that they were physically together, in the same room. Charles didn't ever have to say it or push the thought into his mind. The hurt he'd caused both of them always showed up, palpable as the hard, plastic chess piece Erik picked up and started rolling in his hand.

"Would it have been easier for you if I had left because of a cap left off a tube of toothpaste, or one more wet towel on the floor?"

It would have been easier for me if you had not left.

Erik sighed. Charles always did this. Thought the things he couldn't bring himself to say aloud.

"No, it wouldn't have. You only like to tell yourself that." He put the piece down in the middle of the board, hating how different he sounded when he said the things that he could think with at least a little more gentleness. "I don't want to play with you, Charles. Not today."

"But you want to fight with me."

"No."

"You don't want me to leave."

It wasn't a question.

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

They'd both had such innovative ideas, such bold ideas, about how they could help other mutants. They were going to be at the front of the movement, the leaders of this new people, the driving force behind their acceptance and integration into society-- a society that stopped being fearful but instead understood and embraced mutation and what it meant for the advancement of human knowledge and evolution.

Erik's ideas regarding that had changed over time, so the dream of them doing it together was temporarily suspended.

Charles knew that Erik would call it permanently suspended. Or rather he'd have said, "that dream is dead, Charles," with his typical gravitas. But Charles preferred to believe that Erik would someday see the possibility of a different future for humans and mutants. Getting Erik to see that was still something he thought he could do, eventually.

He knew their partnership would never be as it was, but he hadn't exactly given up hope that they would have an actual partnership again--one of shared ideals for mutants and mutual goals, if nothing else. The else, well, in many ways he still had that, if in a far different way than he could have ever imagined.

Erik had devised his clever helmet to keep Charles from being able to locate him with Cerebro and his telepathic abilities. But sometimes Charles reached out with his mind, and Erik was there, unguarded. Waiting for me, Charles sometimes thought. He always made himself known, and Erik could have easily donned the helmet to end their communication. But he never did. And for a brief time, they put their ideological differences aside and just were. Together. Just as they had been a moment ago.

Now, sitting across from Erik amid all this plastic, Charles could have sworn he still felt the vibration that he'd come to associate with Erik. It was his relationship with metal, his resonance against it and inside it, Charles imagined was still there, hanging in the air all around them. And when Erik exhaled, it filled the space and hummed through him, and he felt almost as if the walls of the room had to bow outward just to accommodate it.

The first time they'd been together had felt similar, with their shared breath and the sort of energy between them that Charles had never felt before, an almost electric hum in the air and the way the hair on his arms rippled as Erik shuddered above him. Perhaps that detail had been his imagination; he'd never been able to decide. But he distinctly remembered watching a drop of sweat roll down Erik's chest and drip off to land on his stomach. He remembered how even that felt charged.

As good as that first time had been, they hadn't immediately started talking about things like a life together, even though they'd almost immediately acted as if that were the plan. Charles knew he wanted more of Erik, and he knew Erik wanted more of him. But he didn't yet have any idea how deep their devotion would truly run. That realization only came when Erik started talking about the camp.

Charles would talk about love sometimes, and Erik might answer yes, or if he were in a dark mood, perhaps, without ever saying the word himself. But he didn't have to say it. Charles knew Erik loved him, or he would not talk about the things he did. That took love. But more importantly, it took a kind of trust that Erik admitted to him he thought he'd never be capable of. Charles had proven him wrong.

And then they'd forged a bond together that Charles knew would bind them until one of them died. He cherished that bond. As much as it had hurt, Charles had never regretted it.

Erik had apologized once, and that had been enough.

They'd made love earlier. Erik leaned on his elbow, his head leaning against his hand as he looked down at Charles, who had one hand casually behind his head. The knuckles of Charles' other hand rubbed gently back and forth over Erik's stomach. They talked about the things they usually talked about, and that led them to the ethics of Charles' power. What was ethical, what wasn't? Charles' views were black and white, while Erik's tried damn hard at being gray.

A solid hour passed while they debated and finally what they were really talking about all along came out. The Nazi experiments. Their attempts at all sorts of telepathy and mind control, and the general horror of the place. Erik ended up with his head cradled against Charles' chest, remembering things they both wished he did not remember.

And then, it happened. Charles couldn't remember a conscious decision on his part, but he opened himself to it all and pressed lightly against the edge of Erik's memory . . . and Erik let him in. He'd shared everything, had held nothing back, and had held Charles while he screamed and wept, and later during his nightmares.

The worst part had been knowing that Erik had wanted this for some time, and that a part of him had imagined holding Charles down and forcing the memories into him, to make him know what it was like. That realization had been the worst part for Erik, too. He'd had to face that frightened and cruel part of himself that didn't want to be alone even inside his own head.

Charles suspected the power exchange had also been hard on him in another way. Because no matter how much of himself Charles sent into Erik's mind, his knowledge of Charles would never be as deep or as intimate as this. He'd given himself to Charles, and it couldn't be undone. No one could ever know him in quite the same way, no matter how much he told them about the camps. Not even other survivors could relate with the same depth, because they could only truly know their own experience. Where Charles had shared his, and had experienced it through his own eyes and heart and gut.

Charles often wondered if they'd have even lasted together if they'd had different mutations, or at least if he hadn't been a telepath, able to share so much more with a lover than just his body. Erik demanded so much from people, and from Charles specifically. If Erik had been the telepath, the one able to dip into his mind and heart at will, Charles wondered how much of himself he could have hung onto in the end, and how much Erik might have taken. He wondered if he'd have cared.

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

Erik watched Charles and didn't have to ask what he was thinking. Charles wasn't sharing anymore, not intentionally, but Erik had years of practice reading those eyes. And maybe Charles was letting a little bit of his thoughts seep through--that was possible.

I never meant to hurt you, Charles.

Didn't you?

Erik sighed, but didn't break the eye contact. It was a fair question, at least if they were talking about the same thing.

Erik, you haven't exactly advanced human-mutant relations. Do you realize just how far you've set us back? You've taken the goals we had together, and you seem to have done everything you could to destroy them. There are other ways.

"Oh, Charles, the forest has blinded you to the many trees about to fall beneath the government's axe. This goes far beyond mutant registration. Think back, old friend. Do you think Hitler would have stopped after every Jew and Gypsy was gone? After every homosexual and every political dissident was dead? Do you really think that Germany's ills would not have then been blamed on some other group of people? And another once they were destroyed?"

Erik stood and walked up to a clear wall, his hands clasped behind his back. There was nothing to see, so he turned back to Charles.

"It starts with mutant registration, Charles. But where does it end? What I tried to do was as much for all of them as it was for us."

"And you truly believe that." It wasn't a question. "But you refuse to accept the possibility that you might be wrong."

"As do you."

And there it was. Erik would argue that he wanted to be wrong, wanted so badly to be wrong. But he saw no evidence of it. And Charles would argue that his biggest fear was that Erik was right, but he saw no evidence of it. And they both had plenty of examples to back up their positions. This was the stalemate that neither of them had been able to find a way around.

Yet, Charles thought. Not yet.

Erik approached him, and he was tempted to go down on his knee to lean against the arm of the chair or squat in front of Charles, as he often had when they wanted to talk privately, intimately. Instead, he faced the opposite direction as Charles and rested a hand on his shoulder. "And if we do find that way around, Charles?"

Charles sigh was too loud in the small room. "When. When we do."

Erik smiled. "If that happened, wouldn't we be very different men then? Sharing an ideal, but perhaps vastly different in other, unexpected ways?" He gently squeezed the tense shoulder. He sensed more than felt Charles moving, a hand to put over his own, perhaps, and moved away too quickly for it.

He sat down and put the pieces back into their starting positions, all but the bishop which he remembered was on the floor. The guard arrived then, announcing the time. On the way past, Charles put a hand on the table to stop, and then his hand found Erik's arm. Erik felt the gentle squeeze.

He wanted to tell Charles that he didn't need him to come back. That he didn't want him to come back.

"You shouldn't come back, Charles."

Charles squeezed again and let the guard push him away.

No, I probably shouldn't.

Erik picked up the plastic king and turned it in his fingers as he chewed his bottom lip. He sat like that for a long time, until the last traces of the memories they'd shared seemed to float back into the past, leaving him alone once again. He put the chess piece gently back on its starting square, then moved the two pawns they'd each played back to their spots near the center of the board, ready for Charles' next visit, so they could pick up where they left off.

November, 2009