“Mmm. I hear Germany has smashing beer.”
Charles grins lazily, turning his head to press a kiss to the side of Erik’s neck. Idle fingertips play over Erik’s arm, weaving curled patterns.
“Paris is also beautiful this time of year. Know how to throw a party, the French.”
A part of him wonders if they’ll actually go. A part of him knows they won’t.
Erik takes the hand that tickles the skin of his arm in his own hand, moving it up to his lips. He kisses the tip of each finger; he’d wash Charles’ feet if he could feel them. But he can’t. Numb below the back, numbness made of modern steel, modern war.
That’s what hurt Erik the most. His betrayal had been so… human. With an instrument that men had been using for years, flinging at each other in a desperate frenzy, hoping that this little (god it was such a little thing, it could fit in the palm of your hand) cylinder would find flesh or bone or nerve and rend it, use it to kill your enemies, your brothers, your species. Animals fight with teeth and claw and then find a quiet place to die.
Bullets are teeth, bombs are claws. You eat each other whole for just a little more land to become a graveyard.
Erik bites the tip of a knuckle, the pinky finger, just enough for a little sting.
“I’ll take you if you want to go,” he whispers. “I’d take you anywhere you wanted.”
It had been a joke. A poor one. One that hadn’t stood a chance in going over well with Erik, but Charles had done it anyway. Because in a way, he was tired of fighting. Of looking back on beaches and Cuba through aching nightmares. He was tired of Erik’s regret and tired of feeling despair over things that couldn’t be changed.
He easily pushes and glides to Erik’s side of the tub, settling in, chest-to-back, like a well-made puzzle piece, stretching out until his head was cradled between Erik’s neck and shoulder and his hand was freely running up and down the outside of Erik’s thigh.
“Did you have anywhere in mind?”
The motion of his arm as it welcomed Charles against him seemed almost mechanical, programmed to do so. It settled protectively over Charles’ chest as he readjusted himself to be more comfortable. Erik wasn’t sure what he was meant to be protecting Charles from. Stray bullets? Himself?
Erik didn’t dwell on it, pushed it aside.
“Paris. Prague.” He paused. “Germany. Somewhere else, I suppose.”
“I’m a telepath, not a soothsayer.” Charles chuckles in return, giving Erik’s leg one last squeeze before pulling away to study the man across from him.
“I’m thinking about how much more comfortable I would probably be over there. Leaning against you, rather than this porcelain.”
Charles’s smile widens as the rest of his thoughts go unspoken. Your hands in my hair. Your breath on the back of my neck. Your warmth on my back. Your discomfort and guilt behind me where I can’t see it.
“So move. Your arms still work fine.”
It was rude, but the prickle of that last lingering thought had made Erik bristle somewhat. His own thoughts flashed only briefly to the deafening sounds of the beach, visuals curiously absent. Then they swirled elsewhere, the previous memory disappearing like water down a drain.
“I was thinking about going somewhere for a bit. With you.”
Because I think that’s what love is- everything but children’s love, anyway - loving the wounds we give each other, and that we can’t help giving each other; you can’t stay alive if you don’t hurt people.
J.R. Salamanca, Lilith
Charles lets himself sink , until only his nose is just above the surface of the water, blue eyes watching Erik’s movements to join him. He’s sure that their legs are awkwardly tangled between them, overlapped and messy, though he’s blind and numb to it. He reaches under the water anyway, finding the underside of Erik’s calf, fingernails lightly scraping upward.
“I admittedly hadn’t had you in mind when I was having this installed. Meant for a single paraplegic, actually.” Harsh words for a man trying to tickle Erik Lehnsherr at the moment he spoke.
The muscles in Erik’s calf twitch but his face doesn’t show it, too practiced at ignoring sensations in his extremities. Willful paralysis.
“Poor foresight on your part.”
He lets his head loll back to rest on the ridge of the cold porcelain of the tub. A low noise of satisfaction and comfort rumbled in this throat.
“What are you thinking about?”
Charles watches in silence, eyes following the motion of large, scarred hands moving over parts of his body that no longer register the very fingertips being pressed in. The tickle is just as unfelt, but the playfulness sweeps away some of the melancholy, the awkwardness that had haunted them for weeks.
“Plenty of practice, I’m sure.” He quips, unabashedly wiggling out of his final layers, dragging his legs into the tub first. The spiderweb of reconstructed skin at the small of his back makes him look fractured. Glued together by a child with clumsy hands.
With a sigh, Charles slides into the bath with a small push. “Mm. Lovely.”
He doesn’t move right away, just watching his friend(brother,lover,enemy) enjoy the small graces of warm water. Vishnu on the calm ocean of milk. Erik manages to look away, removing the rest of his clothes, he is naked but complete, and slides opposite the tub from Charles.
His added volume pushes the water dangerously close to spilling, the warmth lapping at their chests, the supposedly healing salts obscuring anything an inch or two below the surface in milky white obscurity.
Erik closes his eyes. “We need a larger tub.”
Ah yes, their first encounter. Freezing waters, clutching hands, you’re not alone. Charles can’t help but laugh softly as he steers himself up to the bath; newly installed handles, padded edges for comfort. “And here I thought all debts between us had been paid.”
With a practiced grunt, the man carefully lifts himself up, awkwardly shifting his lower body from the chair to the side of the bath. The sweater comes off, then the buttons slowly go down until Charles is shivering.
“You can help me take my trousers off, if you like.” Just to add cheek, Charles lets memories fall in of kitchen counters and ripped shirts and Hank with the milk.
“Debt’s a funny thing unless you keep a strict ledger.”
Erik moves and kneels down in front of Charles, fingers making the practiced motions on the button of his trousers. He rolls his eyes at the memory; cheeky bastard. If he had wanted, he could have sent some much more obscene memories, snippets of silky, sexually threatening dialogues.
“Something I’m good at.”
He chose to run a finger lightly over the bottom of Charles’ foot once he had divested it of a sock. It did not occur to him that the tickle might not be felt. Erik moves back up to slide Charles’ pants over his pale legs.
“You didn’t need to do this, I can manage on my own, you know-“
Charles slowly wheels himself into the bathroom, his amused smile weakening a fraction at the sight of Erik, shirtless and bold. His fingers close around the worn blanket around his lap, twisting into the fabric.
“I take it you’re not going to leave me to my own devices, then.” He murmurs wryly. “Afraid i’ll drown?”
Erik moves, leaning on the pristine tile of the bathroom walls. He looks at Charles, considers the chair.
“Consider it returning the favor,” he remarks offhandedly, reminding Charles with a brief flash of memory. The cold embrace of the ocean, his desperation to hold onto the fast-vanishing submarine.
He sits down on the edge of the tub. “Should I help you in?”