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Somewhere between the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth floors, the elevator jerked and stopped, dancing up and down on cables long enough to spill him to the floor. He grabbed for the chair in the last flicker of light and missed as it toppled over and the elevator settled with a final thump.
He groped towards the wall, then stopped with his hand raised, body heat palpable against his fingers, an utter absence of thought behind it.
Emergency lights came on. The access panel was hanging open, and she was leaning against the closed doors, wearing her own skin and a copy of Erik's odd helmet, white teeth smiling through her thin slash of a mouth.
"Hello, Professor," she said, coming straight off the wall and down to the floor in one inhumanly liquid movement. He reached quickly, but there wasn't much to be done. The building staff were already working on fixing the elevator, and Warren was flying up the fire stairs in tight spirals, yelling into his communicator.
"What is it you want, Mystique?" he asked quietly, propping himself up awkwardly, striving for calm, for time. Without an answer, smiling, she crept towards him across the floor, tauntingly slow, and curled around behind him. She wrapped around him in a parody of an embrace, fingers running up over his lapels to cup his throat, thumbs bracing against his spine.
He knew her strength: she could snap his neck in a moment. She was not the sort of predator you could show your belly to and hope for mercy. He neither struggled nor spoke, letting the thousand minds drifting through the building draw him from his fear, his body. Familiar peace settled in him; she could only kill him, after all, and Scott would be ready for the burden of the dream if he had to be.
And then she answered him, but not with her own voice. "What do you think I want, Charles
?" drawled low and sweet, the thumbs on his throat now roughened with calluses he would never forget. He leaned against them for just a moment, helplessly, because he couldn't sense her behind them at all, and only Erik had ever been able to do that, either.
A moment, and then he grasped all the implications in a single glittering picture. "You do this for him," he whispered, something unfamiliar rising in his throat. "You become me
And after all, why wouldn't Erik indulge? He believed mutation was the central fact of their existence, beyond all other considerations. To be used, to be gloried in—why wouldn't he enjoy Mystique's abilities? Enjoy having Charles again—agreeable and accomodating, and whole
as he would never again be in reality—
Rage pounded a staccato on his temples. A thousand minds all around him: a thousand pairs of hands to tear her apart with, a thousand voices to curse her with, so close to hand, a moment's work and they would rip open the elevator doors on every floor, come swarming down the cables—
She shifted around, scales rippling out of the corner of his eyes, and Erik was crouching before him, elegant and spare as ever, strong, broad hands on his face, stroking over his cheekbones.
"It's never enough, Charles," he said. "It's never—quite—right—" and Erik's mouth was warm and sweet on his own, dreadfully real, Erik's hands working on him, Erik's heat, Erik's urgency beating against him. And yet, yes, not quite right, an essential bitterness missing, and he couldn't help reaching, blindly—
—to find Erik's mind, just beyond what his range ought to have been and blessedly unshielded. Charles?
His mental voice was startled, an instinctive moment of welcome washing through him clean and hot, and it required hardly any effort to catch up his hands, make them set the helmet back down.
And of course, it would be easy to stop her now; a call from the transmitter on Erik's desk to convince her of his control and she would let go at once. Instead he opened his mouth and cupped Erik's face in his hands and tasted him, lips and mind both, and Erik groaned twenty miles away and spread him flat on the floor of the elevator, busy with all the layers of his clothing.
"Slower," he whispered, because Erik always took his time, loved to draw out the essential unraveling, hands lingering on the zippers and buttons—gold, so Erik could feel them, and Charles had never told his tailor to stop using them even though they were unnaturally heavy.
Erik's endless hunger as strong as ever, touch the language they never argued in, and memory full and rich enough that they could feel every moment of it, not merely the rhythm, the echoed heat in his belly, the slick grip of Erik's hand, but the friction of Erik's thighs against his, the stretch and pain and deep pleasure of Erik's cock sliding into him.
, so urgent, the years of separation too sharp for this to last half so long as either of them wanted. "Yes, so close
," he gasped, warning, and Erik grunted faintly over him, sweat running down his back, slick through the valley of his shoulder blades, straining, reaching, heat, release, relief, love
He couldn't hold on, after, his belly wet, the sharp hard angles of Erik's mind momentarily soft, and their minds slipped free of each other, leaving all the old regrets as vivid on his tongue as the smell of sex-drenched wool and metal.
She cleaned him off with his handkerchief, buttoned him back up, blue-scaled hands going over him as skillful and impersonal as a valet's, her mind still impenetrable to his power. But a life lived with the minds of others had left its mark, and he could read some of her reasons in the pressed-tight mouth, the rigidly-held neck.
"Nothing will ever be enough for Erik," he said quietly, and if there was no gentleness in him for her, the rage was gone as well. Hadn't he made any number of mistakes, learning that same lesson? And undoubtedly more to come.
She flinched and said nothing, swarming up and away through the access panel, pulling it shut behind her with one final flash of yellow eyes, even as the elevator jolted back to life. He leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes, touching Warren's mind with a moment of wordless reassurance, unable to bring himself to say, I'm fine
. Perhaps by the time he was home it would again be true.
= End =