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26 June 2011 @ 11:36 pm
Fic: The Telepath and the Metal-bender  
Title: The telepath and the metal-bender.
Author: Moonshape
Fandom: X-Men: First Class
Pairing: Charles/Erik, Charles/Moira, mentions of Erik/Raven
Genre: angst, slash (M/M), drama
Rating: R/NC-17
Spoilers: X-Men: First Class
Summary: While Moira had something soft, kind and tender, Erik was rough, strong and mysterious. He had caught himself to like those aspects in both the human and the mutant. He had never wanted to choose but figured now would be the right time to do so. Moira. Or Erik?
Disclaimer: Story is mine. X-Men: First Class and its characters belong to Marvel. Movie materials to FOX. No profit made. Just for fun.

Chapter 1 - Frankenstein’s Monster (5280)

As the President ‘s words still rang through the room, Charles looked up and saw how Erik turned his back on them and left the sitting room. He turned back to look at the television, but his brain didn’t absorb any of the President’s words anymore. Tomorrow’s outcome could be the beginning of a war or the end of their secret existence.

He looked sideways at Moira, who was staring at the television screen, absorbing every word the President uttered. She looked concerned. And she should be. He reached over to her and placed his hand on hers. She pulled her gaze from the screen and looked at his hand on hers before looking up at him. He smiled reassuringly at her. He didn’t have to read her thoughts to see she appreciated the small gesture.

But Moira wasn’t his biggest concern right now. He knew what tomorrow would mean for Erik. An encounter with Shaw was inevitable and Charles feared for their safety. Together they had grown strong in the past week – but would they be strong enough for Shaw’s men? The youngsters were inexperienced compared to the teleporter and the hurricane bender. And Erik’s lust for blood was almost disturbing.

But he couldn’t blame the man. He had only seen a small fracture of Erik’s memories only fifteen minutes ago and images of cake, candles and the woman and the boy filled his mind again. A lump formed in his throat again as he thought of Erik’s tears. Even though he had achieved something great today, Charles felt rather uncomfortable for entering that particular memory. Erik had seemed grateful and happy for a moment and even though he’d had his permission to enter his head, Charles felt guilty.

As if he had witnessed something he shouldn’t have seen. Something very private.

‘I’ll see you all in the morning,’ Charles said as he got up and started to leave the sitting room as well. He walked through the hallway and hid behind the grandfather clock, staying out of sight for only a brief moment as he brought his hand to his head, his fingertips touching his temple as he tried to locate Erik. He felt him in the library on the first floor.

He took the stairs to the first floor, crossed the landing, and as he looked over the balustrade he saw the youngster starting to leave the sitting room. He quickened his pace, as he didn’t want any of them to see him or speak to him now. He had felt the doubt in their minds during the President’s address and he knew they had lots of questions they wished him to answer. But he just didn’t have them at the present moment.

He reached the library and knocked once, entering before he received permission to come in; it was his house after all. Erik stood by the liquor cabinet, pouring himself a glass of martini. He had changed into dark trousers and a dark sweater. He turned to see who had come in but turned back to his drink as he set the decanter down.

‘Martini Charles?’ Erik asked but Charles shook his head as he closed the door behind him.

‘Scotch.’

Erik’s lip curled as he took an empty glass, unstopped another decanter and poured Charles a glass of scotch.

‘I was wondering if you’d like to play a game of chess,’ Charles lied as he approached Erik, his hands on his back, taking the glass which Erik offered him now he was closer.

Erik’s lip curled again as he drank from his wine.

‘Is there nothing else you do in your spare time, Charles?’

Charles shrugged and raised his scotch to his lips. ‘Raven has never been a match for me.’

‘No one is with your abilities.’

‘Ah, no,’ Charles said as he lowered his glass and shook his head and finger, as if he was trying to correct Erik on his mistake. ‘I never read someone’s mind while playing chess – there is no fun in that. And I promised Raven never to read her mind.’

‘A fair promise,’ Erik remarked

‘She’s like a sister to me – I would never use my abilities against her. And neither would she use hers against me.’

‘Touching,’ Erik said but Charles detected a whiff of indifference in his voice and Charles forced himself to change the subject. He hadn’t come to talk about Raven after all.

‘You achieved something amazing today,’ he spoke as Charles moved over to the window at the left of the fireplace, looking at the giant dish. The sun had begun to set and was almost disappearing behind the massive construction. ‘But I feel I have to apologize for using your memories and pain against you to drive you to it,’ He turned his head to look at Erik who still stood at the liquor cabinet.

‘I’m glad you did,’ Erik said. ‘I had lost that memory years ago. It will be precious to me now.’

Charles couldn’t help but smile. Both at himself and at Erik. He felt relieved Erik hadn’t seen it as an invasion of privacy and this was one of those moments Charles was proud of his own abilities.

‘You’re not angry?’ Charles asked uncertain. ‘I could have picked any memory.’

‘And yet you chose that one,’ Erik said, first setting his wine down before joining Charles at the window. ‘I’m glad you chose that one.’

‘But I – I didn’t want to invade your privacy,’ Charles muttered as he averted his eyes from Erik’s.

‘Charles,’ Erik said and he felt something brush past his hand that was holding his glass. He looked up and saw Charles’ fingers touch his, only the smallest surfaces of their skin toughing. Charles’ hand started to shake ever so slightly, his stomach jolting due to the gentle touch.

‘You were the first mutant I ever met, Charles,’ Erik spoke. ‘We are brothers. I gave you permission to read my memories.’

‘Yes – but,’ Charles stammered, but Erik’s hand closed around the glass of scotch and he looked up at the taller man. This was the first time he had gotten this close. A whiff of discomfort filled his veins and his hand burned underneath Erik’s.

‘Stop apologizing,’ Erik spoke and his voice sounded demanding for the first time. ‘It makes you appear weak.’

‘I’m not weak,’ Charles spoke but his voice sounded quite a lot like he was. He couldn’t stop his vocal chords from trembling slightly.

‘Your knees say otherwise,’ Erik’s lip curled again and he nodded down. Charles involuntarily looked down, seeing that his legs had indeed started to tremble uncontrollably. Their closeness did something to him and Charles wasn’t sure whether he liked it that much. But there was only one thing he could think of right now but didn’t dare to react to it. Was Erik planning on hurting him? Or was something else close to happening here? It was hard to understand Erik’s gestures, and the look in his eyes as he looked at Charles with what could only be described as hunger.

So he did the only thing he could do to get answers from the other man. He closed his eyes for a nanosecond before opening them again, forcing himself into Erik’s mind. It was hard to concentrate this way without Erik noticing him. But he had to know what he was thinking right now.

It took a lot of effort but as he saw Erik’s fantasies, he turned pale and swallowed hard. He wasn’t sure what he had just seen. His cheeks flushed and a drop of sweat started to fall down his temple and he noticed he was suddenly breathing a lot heavier than before. Was he aroused? Aroused because what he had seen in Erik’s mind?

Erik tilted his head for a moment and raised his hand up and tapped the side of his head.

‘Are you snooping around in here, Charles?’

Charles clenched his jaw together and shook his head. Erik smirked again.

‘I don’t have to be a telepath to see you’re lying.’

‘’M not –

‘What did you see, Charles?’ Erik asked and stepped closer, their bodies almost touching and Charles’ hand started to shake even more.

‘N-Nothing,’ he choked out the lie.

But before he could say more, Erik leaned in closer and pressed his lips against his. Charles’ hand opened and he dropped the glass which shattered into tiny pieces, the ginger liquid staining the carpet. He startled and wished to pull back but Erik seized the sides of his head and kept him in place. For a moment, he was taken aback, bewildered and in shock as he stumbled back. But as he hit the wall, Erik pushed himself against him and Charles didn’t see a way out of this now.

He grabbed Erik’s arms and tried to push him away and for a moment Erik did. Their faces stayed close as the other mutant breathed: ‘Stop struggling Charles,’ he moved one hand away from Charles’ face and pointed it at the door, twisting his wrist. Charles heard the locks snap, locking the door to prevent unwanted guests from coming in. He lowered his hand and placed it behind Charles’ hip. ‘And stop me if you want too.’

Charles knew he could easily stop Erik with his mind. But he didn’t. He had tried to deny it for days now, and he had forced himself to think of Moira more often than Erik. But the mutant intrigued him and filled his mind with warmth, joy and curiosity. While Moira had something soft, kind and tender, Erik was rough, strong and mysterious. He had caught himself liking those aspects in both the human and the mutant. He had never wanted to choose but figured now would be the right time to do so. Moira? Or Erik?

His hands trembled as his placed them on Erik’s waist. Slowly but surely, he was making his decision. And it didn’t involve using his abilities. It was Erik. It had always been Erik and it would always be Erik. He wrapped his arms tighter around the other man and opened his mouth voluntarily to let Erik roam inside.

He felt Erik’s hand move underneath his cardigan and pull his shirt out of his trousers. His hand touched his skin and for the first time he gasped, grasping Erik’s sweater, his knuckles turning white. A woman had never made him feel like this and they hadn’t even started yet. But unlike Erik, no woman apart from Raven had been a mutant. It felt as if he was playing with fire, knowing that this man could kill him with a flick of the hand. It both frightened and aroused him.

Erik’s other hand slid down his chest and undid the buttons of his cardigan, removing his hand from his skin to push the cardigan down his shoulders. Charles wormed out of it and let it drop casually on the floor. He then grasped Erik by the side of his head like he had done earlier to him and jammed his lips against his, his mouth opening from time to time to allow his tongue to caress the other mutant’s tongue and scrape his teeth past his lips.

He then took the hand that was around Erik’s neck to his own face, his fingers touching his temple again.

Take it off –

And with a swift motion, Erik’s hands dropped from Charles’ back and grabbed the rim of his own sweater, pulling it over his head and also dropping it on the floor, leaving him wearing a wife beater. He then blinked and looked down at the small bundle of clothes and looked up at Charles who lowered his hand, for the first time smirking as Erik had done earlier.

‘You’re using your powers against me?’ Erik said and leaned in again, their faces close again. He raised his hand and held it in front of Charles at about the height of his belly button. He felt something tug at his trousers and when he looked down he saw his belt unbuckle itself and his fly unzip. He looked back at Erik, slightly frightened of where this would lead.

‘That is the second time since you’ve entered this room,’ he said as he flicked his hand and the belt was pulled out of the loops of his trousers and they flew through the room, smashing a lamp that stood close to the settee and both man were slightly startled. It was obvious Erik didn’t have control over his powers right now and again Charles felt slightly fearful. He tried to remember if he was wearing any other metal, but apart from his belt and watch, there was nothing else. Erik turned to look back at him, leaned closer again but instead of kissing his lips, he felt the man’s mouth caress his skin just underneath his jawbone. Charles gasped as he felt Erik’s wet, warm mouth kiss his neck. He closed his eyes and whimpered, squirming slightly against Erik who now raised his left hand and placed it on the other side of Charles’ face.

It was then when he caught the black lining on the man’s arm, he grabbed Erik’s left wrist, pulling them down and away from his face so he could look at it properly.

A set of numbers was burned into his skin – a tattoo. 214782. Charles sighed and closed his eyes as he shook his head and for the first time, he understood Erik and his desire to kill Shaw. It wouldn’t solve any problems, nor fix things. But Charles knew hate would be greater than sense when that moment would come.

‘Aren’t there ways to have that removed?’ Charles asked and nodded at the markings on Erik’s arms.

‘If there are, I wouldn’t,’ Erik admitted and Charles looked up, confusion appearing on his face and he frowned.

‘It reminds me of what they did to my mother – I am marked in skin and soul. I will not rest until I’ve killed Shaw, Charles.’

Charles nodded and let go to Erik’s hand. ‘I was afraid of that.’

Erik grabbed Charles’ face again and forced him to look at him.

‘Whatever happens tomorrow,’ he spoke solemnly. ‘It will not change anything for us, Charles,’ and he curled his fingertips and they scraped past his skull in a painless way. ‘This is the start of our brotherhood,’ and a smile spread his lips, his eyes sparkling with excitement. How could Charles not smile back?

Erik seemed hopeful as he pulled Charles’ face towards his and they kissed again. But unlike before, the kiss was slow and felt warmer than ever. Erik slowly dragged his tongue past Charles’, who shivered with pleasure and excitement. Erik lowered his hands to his collar and he felt him fumbling with the buttons of his shirt. In return, Charles reached out for Erik’s wife beater and pulled it over his head, breaking Erik’s contact with his buttons. He had thought the man would continue unbuttoning his shirt but instead he was embraced by him and their lips met again. Erik started to move away from the wall and as the other mutant was larger and also quite a lot more muscular than him, Charles could only follow. He had thought Erik would lead them to the settee but instead, he pushed him down on the floor. Charles sat down on the rug and soon Erik hovered over him. Charles inhaled sharply as Erik’s body weight crashed down on upon him as they lay down, their legs entwined.

Finally, Erik managed to undo the last button of Charles’ shirt and spread the ends open, revealing Charles’ pale chest. He wasn’t half as muscled as Erik was and for a moment it concerned him. He blinked slowly again but this time, Erik was onto him.

‘Stay out of my head, Charles,’ he breathed as he pinned Charles’ wrists down, his weight pressed down on his arms. Struggling was useless. So he could only watch how Erik straddled his lap and brought his face down to his chest. His lips touched his collarbone and he inhaled sharply, followed by a gasp as he felt teeth scraping past the bulge of his exposed bone. He felt Erik’s knee press gently against his groin and as his trousers were already undone, his growing manhood started to show more than before now.

‘Take it off,’ Charles pleaded, filling Erik’s mind with his words. ‘Please –

‘I told you –,’ Erik hissed through his gritted teeth, but he let go of Charles’ wrists and grasped his trousers as either side of his thighs and pulled them down to his ankles. ‘Stay out of my head when I’m asking you,’ and he hovered back over Charles, who toed his own shoes off. Erik now rested his weight on his own arms, leaving a small gap between their bodies. Charles had the strange feeling he was being played with.

‘I – I’m sorry, I – I can’t seem to control it like I usually do,’ Charles admitted shamefully. Something was making him invade Erik’s mind without he himself noticing it. He was losing control and wasn’t sure if he liked it or why it was happening. He certainly couldn’t concentrate on his ability as well as he normally could

But Erik smirked and seemed pleased with what was happening.

‘Focus lies between rage and serenity?’ Erik repeated Charles’ words from earlier today.

‘Right now I’m neither,’ Charles said and shook his head and Erik chuckled for the first time and lowered his head down to kiss Charles again.

He reached up, his arms wrapped around Erik’s waist and the other mutant slowly lowered his weight down on Charles again and his manhood pressed against the other man’s hip. His hands roamed over his back until he reached the rim of Erik’s trousers. He reached to the front and fumbled with the belt, his hands trembling. Oh he had taken the trousers off women before but never a – a man. A fellow mutant.

He managed to undo the belt and the fly. But he was forced to break from the kiss as he tried to push Erik’s trousers down. Erik sat up for a moment, lowering his trousers to his knees and Charles shrugged the rest of his shirt off just in time before Erik was back on top of him, his hands gliding over his hip and up to his chest, causing him to inhale deeply again. He dropped his gaze and caught sight of Erik’s bulge hidden in his underwear. He swallowed again. After all, he had never been with another man and wondered what it would be like. He was quite sure he was close to finding out.

Erik settled himself between his legs and ran his hands down Charles’ chest now. Charles arched his back slightly underneath Erik’s touch and closed his eyes as he felt lips touch his neck again. Erik pressed his pelvis against Charles’ who gasped louder than ever at the feeling of Erik’s manhood pressing against his, only separated by their pants.

‘Be quiet,’ Erik said. ‘Someone might here us.’

‘If they do, I’ll make sure they’ll forget,’ Charles gasped as he ran his hand through Erik’s hair for the first time, he fingers scraping over his scalp.

And he then felt Erik’s hands linger around by the rim of his pants and felt him pull them down. The piece of fabric slid over his manhood, exposing himself entirely. Charles avoided his gaze as Erik looked at him. But Erik moved to take Charles’ boxers off entirely before pulling down his own. Charles caught himself looking down at the other man’s manhood. Not even to compare but out of curiosity. They were both rock hard.

‘What happens now Erik?’ Charles thought but apparently, he hadn’t been able to keep it to himself. Erik shook his head once before looking back at Charles again.

‘Don’t your genes tell you what to do?’ Erik asked.

‘You mean instinct?’

‘Any of those,’ Erik answered and wrapped his long fingers around Charles’ manhood and started to rub him. ‘Don’t think – but do what you feel you have to do.’

‘What I feel?’

‘In your heart,’ Erik said and lowered his head, his lips brushing past Charles’ again ever so lightly. And Charles closed his eyes as he reached down to touch Erik’s member.

Erik seemed to tremble for a moment and he finally started to breathe as heavily as Charles had been before. They continued to touch each other; rubbing each other’s testicles and shafts until Erik moved between Charles’ legs, shifting closer to him. He felt his fingers linger around his arse and squeezed his eyes shut as Erik drove his fingers into him. He whimpered loudly as he felt Erik’s fingers turn around and brush past something inside him that made his gasp so loud his lungs hurt. Charles didn’t know if this was necessary and for the first time wondered if Erik even knew what he was doing?

After a while he felt Erik pull his fingers back and lift his hips slightly and spit in his hand, wiping his saliva over Charles’ entrance. He then took his own manhood in his hand, pressing the tip against Charles before gently pushing himself into him.

He gasped louder than ever, arching his back and his eyes shut tightly, his face wrought with pain. He wanted to get up and move away from Erik. But the other mutant had grabbed his wrists and pinned them down again.

‘E-Erik,’ he whimpered with pain.

‘Wait. It will pass,’ Erik spoke but Charles shook his head.

‘How – how do you know?’ he asked with eyes still tightly closed

‘I just do – don’t ask.’

Charles’ eyes flew open, curious why he wasn’t allowed to ask about it. He wondered if Erik had ever done something like this before and for a moment he was ready to read Erik’s mind again. But he then figured it also couldn’t be a pleasant memory for Erik. And he didn’t want to make the mutant stop with what he was doing now. And Erik’s eyes were fixed upon his, as if he expected Charles would simply take the memory from him.

Erik shook his head slightly and repeated: ‘Don’t try to find out either,’ and Charles shook his head too, telling Erik he wouldn’t.

Erik moved his pelvis and again Charles whimpered with pain. He felt himself burn and hoped Erik was right. If this wouldn’t stop, he wouldn’t like it that much would he? But Erik spit in his hand again, smearing saliva over his shaft before pressing into Charles again. He whimpered again but this time, the pain wasn’t as bad as earlier and the whimpering soon turned into soft moaning. He had to hold himself back from not making any louder sounds for fear the others would hear them. This wasn’t something he would want to share with anyone, and again he felt grateful he was the telepath of the lot.

Erik lowered himself down on top of Charles, his weight crashing down on him again. He flung his arms around the mutant’s waist and hooked his legs around Erik’s. Their bodies grew warmer the longer Erik moved his hips and with every thrust, and Charles gasped as Erik’s weight pressed the air out of his lunges.

His own manhood kept rubbing against Erik’s stomach, which gave him a strange sensation. He was having trouble registering both the stimulation by Erik’s manhood and the one this gentle rubbing of his own manhood gave him. Both felt incredibly pleasant and he wasn’t sure what was going to drive him to the edge.

‘Look at me, Charles,’ Erik suddenly spoke and Charles opened his eyes to look at the other man. Sweat was dripping down Erik’s forehead and Charles was sure so was on his. Erik’s hair was wet with sweat and thin strands were hanging down his forehead. Charles could feel his own hair matted against his forehead.

He didn’t know why Erik had asked him to look at him, but it felt as if their gaze could not be broken by anything right now. Erik continued to thrust into Charles when Charles suddenly arched his back, feeling his climax was close. Erik moved faster and every thrust hit him hard in the inside. He grabbed the other mutant’s shoulders as he let out a loud gasp and his muscles tightened. His manhood started to throb and soon he felt his own warm seed splash against Erik’s stomach before being smeared out on his own.

It was now Erik who closed his eyes tightly, clenching his teeth together. Charles felt Erik’s manhood throb inside him and something warm fill him. His eyes flashed bewilderedly around as he panted and gasped and waited for Erik to finish.

Panting, Erik finally opened his eyes again and both men looked at each other for a long time, as if they were both realising what had just happened. It was Erik’s lip who curled again very slightly and again Charles couldn’t not help but smile back ever so slightly.

Erik rested his head on his shoulder and they lay silently on the floor, catching their breath.

‘What will you do now Charles?’ Erik asked after a while. ‘Will you make me forget?’

‘Never,’ Charles breathed, staring up at the ceiling.

Erik leaned on his elbow, his head resting on his palm and looked down at Charles, who kept his eyes fixed on the ceiling.

‘Why not?’

‘Why would I?’

Charles saw how Erik’s eyes wandered around the room for a moment.

‘Just because I can doesn’t mean I always will,’ Charles spoke as Erik didn’t answer him.

Again Erik didn’t reply and Charles saw his chance.

‘What happened?’ he asked abruptly and Erik turned his head back to look down at him. ‘I mean – when you said not to ask you.’

‘And you just did,’ Erik said bitterly.

‘I’d like to know,’ Charles said, his voice sounding slightly demanding. ‘Or I’ll see for myself.’

‘That would be rude, Charles,’ Erik said with a curt nod of his head. ‘The past few weeks you have always asked me to see in my mind – and now you think you can just burst in as if my head is like a room with a closed door?’

He sat up and rested his elbows on his knees. All Charles could see was his bare back and he lifted his head up at once, his eyes running over Erik’s skin. Why hadn’t he seen that before?!

He pitched himself up onto his elbows, taking in Erik’s body for the first time. His back was full of large gashes and small circular scars. The scars seemed old and were only slightly visible. Who had done that to him?

He looked at the back of Erik’s head for a moment, before daring to reach out and place his fingertips on Erik’s back. He felt the other mutant sigh and Charles sat up entirely, resting his cheek against Erik’s shoulder.

‘Tell me, my friend,’ Charles spoke more gently and less demanding than before. But Erik shook his head, clenching his jaw tightly.

Charles watched his profile and saw a muscle in the man’s jaw twitch.

‘Show me your pain, Erik,’ Charles said as he tilted his head slightly but his chin still resting on Erik’s shoulder. ‘Share your pain with me.’

‘Go see for yourself,’ Erik muttered with a sigh, turning his face away from Charles again.

Charles sighed, as if he was preparing himself for the worst before he lifted his hand to his face again and his fingers touched his temple. He dived into Erik’s mind and searched for the memory the other mutant had tried to hide from him.

It didn’t take him that long to find it.

The boy. The boy he had seen with the woman – Erik’s mother. Lay on an examination table. Needles with tubes were stuck into his arms and he was strapped to the table he lay on. The boy was screaming. For his mother. Who was dead.

A man appeared and hovered above him, and jabbed a syringe into one of the tubes that hung into the lad. The man laughed and Charles had a familiar feeling about this man. He had heard that laugh before, hadn’t he?

The boy started to tremble uncontrollably and the man secured the straps around his wrists and ankles. His eyes rolled into their sockets and he started to seize. But the boy’s trembling wasn’t the only trembling going on. The entire room shook – every metal object was shaking. They shook with the same rhythm as the boy, and as soon as the seizure stopped, so did all the objects in the room. The man laughed and approached the boy with a second syringe and the whole process started again.

Charles pulled back at once, not wishing to see more. He heard Erik swallow hard and so did he.

‘What – what did he do to you?’

‘He?’ Erik asked. ‘Like they did to many young men my age,’ he looked sideways at Charles who frowned. ‘Experiments. He did not realise that his experiments would change us forever.’

‘They did that to Jewish children?’ Charles asked. The government and Germany were still rather secretive about the camps. It was still too fresh for the world to know what was done there under Hitler’s orders.

But now, not twenty years later, they were on the brink of a new war.

‘Those who survived were never the same,’ Erik said and Charles figured this meant his sexuality. He hadn’t expected it of course, but it was common among Holocaust victims, and especially the young had shown changes in psychological developments. Mutant or not, Erik was no exception.

‘I – I’m so sorry my friend,’ Charles said as he placed his hand on Erik’s lower arm, laying it over the numbers and resting his head now completely down on the other man’s shoulder. ‘I – I shouldn’t have asked. Again,’ he put stress on the last word, realising he had done it again.

‘Are we starting this all over again?’ Erik asked although there was a lack of humour in his tone right now.

‘You still owe me a game of chess,’ Charles said and shrugged.

Erik chuckled and to Charles, it sounded like music right now.

Erik lifted his hand and bent his fingers. From one of the small tables, a metal tissue box floated over towards them and Charles reached out for it.

‘You know – Magneto isn’t such a bad name for you,’ Charles said as he pulled a handful of tissues out of the box. He offered the box to Erik who took it and stared down at the metal encasement for a short time and nodded slightly.

‘Maybe not.’

They dressed again and as Charles picked up his belt that lay across the room, he heard the unmistakable rattling noise of the chess pieces in the wooden box he kept them in. He poured himself a new glass of scotch and another wine for Erik, who had started to lay out the chessboard.

‘I’m white,’ Charles announced, as he sat down in the chair opposite Erik and offered him the wine.

‘As usual,’ Erik muttered and accepted the wine with one hand, setting the white king down in front of Charles. But Charles had caught Erik’s lip curl again and as he sipped his drink, he couldn’t help but grin at himself.