short fill for a prompt on 1stclass_kink. Charles and Erik travel across America recruiting mutants. Expect a total disregard for proper characterization and canon. >_>
There was a mutant in Washington County, Virginia, who, aside from being able to shapeshift, had limited telepathic abilities. His name was Kevin Sydney and he was a high school senior, and Charles watched him trudge home with his head ducked low in his bellbottoms and red jacket. Then he turned to Erik who sat behind the steering wheel, his face impassive, his arm dangling out the open window, hand pressed to the side of the car.
Erik's hair was neatly combed to the side and he was dressed in a turtle neck and sport coat, perfect for the October coolness. “Is that who we're looking for?” he asked, nodding his head in Kevin's direction.
Charles clipped on his seatbelt and nodded back. “Let's go,” he said.
And they went.
The car was a mustard yellow Camaro lent to them by Moira.
The agency wasn't subsidizing their trips so they had to travel frugally, stopping at roadside hotels and quaint bed and breakfasts owned by shaky old women widowed after the second world war. The rooms were standard and especially tiny with flimsy plaster walls and bedraggled curtains reeking of month-old air freshener.
More often than not, Charles took the bed nearest the window so he was afforded a view of what lay outside. Sometimes it was a view of the adjacent gas station, or a row of tall unclipped hedges that formed the likeness of a zoo animal.
Erik always chose the bed near the door and slept, half-awake, with his body turned towards it, tense as a spring coil. He was unyielding even in dreams.
When Charles felt particularly curious or intrusive, or if a day had passed without the two of them speaking beyond niceties, Charles would wait until Erik fell asleep and slip into his mind. He would watch him dream, from time to time, standing safely over the rim of Erik's subconscious to avoid detection, an onlooker watching seams of thought rushing by like swimming fish.
In the morning, Charles would remember fragments: smooth water. Or shining metal. Sometimes a sliver of fear, sometimes grief, both with roots deeper than Charles could imagine.
They drove into Gatlinburg, Tennessee just before sundown. There was one long main street where a throng of tourists stood with cameras hanging from their necks, debating on where to buy dinner.
Charles listened to their thoughts in passing, catching snippets of arguments and slices of conversation. He wished he could wander around town and buy souvenirs for Raven and himself, but they were here strictly on business and petrol became especially expensive when it came from his pocket. Traffic slowed to a crawl and sunset crept in through the bright red foliage.
“You're smiling,” Erik said. He had an unusual expression on his face, one that Charles could not easily read. Charles couldn't tell if he was smiling himself or frowning, or doing a little bit of both, so he squared his shoulders just to have something to do and then looked away, out the window, beyond the road that veered sharply to a turn.
“I was just remembering something,” he said, and thought about the look on Raven's face when he left her with Moira.
They chose to spend the night at the Blue Ridge Inn, a nondescript two-story block of a building in the outskirts of town. Spanish moss hung from the trees outside the window, eclipsing the view of the street.
“I'm taking this bed, if you don't mind,” Erik said, lowering his duffel bag on the floor. Charles peered through the blinds and then leaned back to watch a beetle scuttle across the glass. He heard Erik shuffling behind him, rooting through his things, moving towards the adjoining bathroom and then shutting the door.
Charles listened to the shower running, the fat pelt of water beating down against the tile, against Erik's smooth, broad shoulders. He sat on the bed without his shoes on, leaning against pillows he'd arranged to cradle his back. It had been a long day.
Finally, ten or fifteen minutes later, Erik emerged, a blue complementary bath towel wrapped around his waist. His hair was slick, black and shiny, like the matte finish of a car. He threw his dirty clothes down on the bed and stretched, unhinging the crick in his neck. Beads of water dripped down the ends of his hair.
Charles watched him from the corner of his eye slip a shirt over his head. He crossed his legs at the ankles and picked up the welcome card from the bedside table. Welcome to the Blue Ridge Inn, it said, Enjoy your stay!
They went to eat dinner at the adjoining bar.
The place was riotous and filled with road weary men in faded jackets and worn shoes, all drunk and crowded around the bar, sat on stools and leant forwards on their elbows. A song played on the jukebox, too low for Charles to recognize but he hummed along off-key as he placed his order.
The vinyl seats were sticky and cool under his hand. Erik dressed in enveloping colors that matched his overall mood but his hair was loose and peaked out in tufts around his head, flat on one side where he'd slept on it.
It was a strange look for him, unfamiliar, but Charles liked it, the softness that felt accessible, easy to touch.
“How do you like America so far?” Charles asked him, in lieu of small talk.
Erik raised his eyes and leaned against his seat. He folded his hands on the table and pretended to think. “It's been…” he hesitated a moment and quirked his lips. “Interesting so far.”
“Interesting,” Charles repeated, lifting an eyebrow. Erik didn't elaborate.
When their food arrived, there was even less talk.
Erik sipped on his coffee and Charles loosened the collar of his shirt, picking up his fork and cutting a piece of steak with his knife.
“This, I think, is the best steak I've ever had in my life.”
Erik, because he was Erik, ignored him and continued eating.
Ohio proved to be another futile endeavor.
The mutant's name was Carol Wigdortz and she was a student at the local community college. They sat her down and asked her about her abilities, which Charles already knew about, and involved the manipulation of time.
She could slow it down or accelerate it but her powers were still at a fetal stage and relied heavily on her shifting mood. She wasn't swayed by Charles' pep talk, and wanted nothing to do with them. Her face grew more pinched as Charles explained to her what the agency had planned for people like them, people with gifts.
“I'm sorry, really, and all of this sounds terrific, but I don't trust the government.”
She left quickly after that, casting furtive glances over her shoulder to check if they were following her.
Erik clicked his tongue and watched her cross the street. He'd been silent all morning, leaving the talking to Charles. “I'd hate to say I told you so, Charles,” Erik sighed, feigning sympathy. He sounded smug. Erik always sounded smug.
Charles pocketed his hands and sighed. This was the third one in the last week that they'd failed to recruit. No one wanted to part of the program. Everyone else had better things to do, it seemed, like go on pretending they were human.
“I'm certain there will be others,” Charles said, although at this point, watching Carol drive off, he almost didn't believe it.
The road went forever on. It was late when they reached Tallahassee, rolling to a stop in the gravely parking lot of a bar filled with men trickling in straight from work.
Charles had a beer and sat at the bar, eyeing the pretty redhead in the corner of the room. He smiled at her, raising his drink, and she smiled back, giggling and batting her eyes.
The beer made him feel loose enough to chat her up. Erik, as per usual, steered clear of any frivolity. He had a one track mind that was solely focused, it seemed, on either locating Shaw or aborting Charles' pursuit of enjoyment.
Anna, Charles' new friend, had small, round breasts that brushed Charles' arm as she leaned into him. Two drinks later, and they were in the parking lot, pressed up against the Camaro, speaking in hushed whispers and laughing at themselves. She was close enough to kiss.
Charles cupped her face and breathed in the scent of her hair but something must have happened, in the dark, or in the next two seconds, because she was gone as soon as he opened his eyes. Erik stood there, in her place, a few feet away from him with his eyebrow raised and his arms crossed. He looked annoyed. He always looked annoyed.
“Are you quite done yet Charles?”
“Done?” Charles repeated. “Done with what?” He rubbed his eyes and blinked. No sign of Anna anywhere.
Charles frowned. “You, my friend,” he said, slapping a hand around Erik's back. “You need to learn how to have fun! Loosen up.”
“We're here for a purpose,” he reminded Charles, winding an arm around his shoulders before Charles tripped and landed on his face. Erik's hand was curved against Charles' elbow and Charles felt the moisture of his breath on his cheek, the silky warmth.
Erik yanked the car door open and shoved him bodily inside. Charles hit his forehead on the roof and winced. “Bloody hell,” he hissed, rubbing the spot ruefully. “Could you be a bit more careful, mate?”
Erik grunted and shrugged a shoulder. They sat in the darkness for a little while. The car was parked in the very back of the lot, facing the trees. Charles reclined his seat.
“I'm trying to sleep,” he told Erik, whose thoughts weren't very quiet. They were erratic and all over the place, an avalanche of formless things that kept Charles alert and restless.
“I try to imagine random objects,” Charles continued, “Like a shoe or a teapot. I'm trying to imagine pleasant people.”
“There aren't any pleasant people, that's the problem,” Erik said, smirking and shaking his head. His eyes were unreadable in the dark and he sniffed softly, a sound that was wet and filled with wry amusement.
“I find you pleasant,” Charles volunteered, and this was only partially true. “Strangely enough. Broody though, at times a wet blanket.” He smiled when Erik leveled him with a look.
“I would appreciate it if you stopped talking,” Erik said, reaching in behind Charles and grabbing a jacket from the backseat. He threw it at Charles who caught it with his face, blinked, and slid the jacket down to his shoulders. It smelled like Erik. It felt perverse to think about it that way: Erik's jacket, Erik's scent.
“You're drunk,” Erik told him, something that was also only partially true; Charles' thoughts were clear and his eyes were bright in the dark.
Charles lifted the jacket to his chin and shrugged, looking out the window. He wished he could read Erik's mind without him knowing, but he couldn't concentrate on anything long enough. He heard the late night trill of insects in the grass and the damp laughter of men trickling out the bar and jostling each other. He heard traces of Erik's thoughts, which were, at the moment, serene and strangely at peace.
Charles glanced up and caught Erik looking at him, smiling with just one side of his mouth. He sat up but Erik pushed him back down. His hand, like the rest of him, was warm and broad.
“Go to sleep,” Erik said, his voice raspy, roughened with exhaustion.
“And what about you?”
Erik rolled down the window. “Someone needs to be on the lookout.”
“Not everybody is out to kill us, Erik,” Charles told him, and didn't hear Erik's response because a second later, he was throwing up over the far side of the car, moaning into his borrowed jacket.
Erik crouched next to him, thumping him on the back and rubbing up his spine. Charles felt a strange weight on his shoulders lift and wondered why it was that he felt a rush of sudden kindness towards Erik, not sympathy, but the desire to treat him well.
Erik laughed. “You're an idiot, Charles,” he said.
Charles groaned, smiling in spite of himself, and eyes wide, lurched forward for round two.
Charles woke up to a grey ceiling. Erik was still asleep in the bed next to his, his head pillowed against his right arm. The white undershirt that he wore was taut across his shoulders.
Charles staggered into the bathroom to brush his teeth and wash his face. When he came out dressed and ready, Erik was sitting by the window, wide wake, his chin propped against his fist. His eyes were red. Of course. They'd been driving all night.
“I think you should let me drive today,” Charles told him, hoisting his bag over his shoulder. Erik made a bored gesture with his right hand and lifted the keys in the air, well beyond Charles' reach. Then he smiled, a wide, amused teeth-filled smile.
“All right,” Charles conceded, sighing, fighting the urge to roll his eyes. “You drive, then.”
On their way to Jackson, Charles leaned his head out the open window, watching silver, gleaming cars amble past them on the road. The air smelled like dust. The sky was a blinding endless blue.
“This is beautiful, isn't it?” Charles said, and when he turned to look at Erik, Erik wasn't smiling, but he wasn't frowning either. The corners of his lips turned up and he shoved a hand through his hair which was clumped together in sweat and piled to one side of his head.
“It's distracting,” Erik said, finally, easing into the next lane.
“Is that a good thing?”
Erik kept his eyes on the road and shrugged one shoulder. “You tell me,” he said.
They stopped to breakfast at a diner just outside Cherokee County.
Erik, who took his coffee black with no sugar, excused himself to use the bathroom.
Charles entertained himself by listening in on other people's conversations. The pleasant cadence of their voices, not their thoughts, was soothing and allowed him to forget his own troubles.
Even as a child, he liked listening to people talk and marveled over how no one ever said what they truly meant. Secrets escalated and increased in magnitude over time. Lies too, especially.
When Erik returned, Charles looked up from his soup and smiled immediately.
They were driving to Mississippi today to seek out a mutant with healing capabilities. Last night, because Erik refused to stop for directions, they spent a good hour parked on the roadside, checking Hank's coordinates and the roadmap they'd bought along with them. The nearest motel was three miles east and the petrol was running on empty.
“Are you letting me drive anytime soon?” Charles asked nicely, climbing up to his feet and throwing bills on the table.
Erik handed him his jacket and had the gall to look surprised. “Never,” he said.
The only inn in Baltimore had one vacant room left.
Erik slipped off his shoes and sat at the foot of the bed. “You can have the bed,” he told Charles magnanimously, rubbing the knot at the base of his neck.
“No, we should share,” Charles insisted, waving a hand. “You drove all day and the bed looks big enough. So. We should. Share. Absolutely.”
Charles left to shower and change in the bathroom. Erik was sprawled out on his back, already genuinely asleep when he returned. Charles combed his hair, folded his clothes, went for a brief walk outside and then came back to sit on his side of the bed. He watched Erik's face change as he slept and was tempted, for one long moment, to invade his dreams. His hand hovered over Erik's head, poised and waiting, but he couldn't do it.
Charles turned off the light and sighed as the room enclosed in darkness.
The sheets were warm with Erik's body heat. Charles wondered, not for the first time, how different things would be if they hadn't met, if Erik's mother hadn't died at the hands of Shaw and Erik wasn't so consumed with revenge and hatred. He mused for a few moments on the question and then fell asleep, lying on his side.
When he woke again, it was still dark outside. Seams of streetlight sliced through the blinds. Erik's entire body was turned towards him, his face slack, his mouth half open. His breathing, slow and steady and interrupted by the occasional snore, sounded peaceful.
Charles leaned forward and touched the edges of his cheek, careful not to wake him. The skin there was rough with patches of stubble. Erik blinked his eyes open and caught Charles' wrist just as he was about to pull away. His grip was hard enough to hurt but Charles didn't blink.
“Tell me Charles,” Erik said slowly, “Do you make a habit of watching people sleep?”
“It used to scare Raven a lot when we were younger,” Charles told him.
And Erik smiled, soft in the dark and almost sinister, loosening his grip on Charles' wrist before moving forward. Charles felt his kiss before it happened, the heat of Erik's breath, and then the slow drag of his teeth. Erik's tongue touched his very briefly, and he slid away to roll onto his back and stare at the ceiling.
“Go to sleep,” Erik said, lying on his side, facing away from him.
Charles, who had kissed plenty of girls and slept with a fair number of them, who was rarely shy and embarrassed and always knew what to say and do when the situation called for it, felt his skin burn. Felt his heart settle in his chest and whirr, like a freight train.
A week later in New York, they met her.
Her name was Angel and she had hair that was black and sleek and went to her shoulders. She looked at them both with her bedroom eyes and then unfurled her wings, which were glassy and luminous and buzzed faintly like a fly's.
Charles caught Erik's eye, grinned, and patted him on the knee. As if to say this is it, this is finally the one. As if to say we've arrived.
Erik sipped on his champagne and lifted the glass to eye-level.
It looked like a salute.