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"1960," a Belated Secret Santa Fic for Dusty15 - XMFC (Charles/Erik) 2/2


Anonymouse

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Santa got stuck in traffic... sorry. blush.png I had Dusty15 for Secret Santa and she wanted some cold loveliness, and I'm not sure but I thiiiink she's a James McAvoy fan. wink.png So I wrote an X-Men: First Class fic with Charles/Erik, since I suck at RPF and I know she likes X-Men. Spoiler alert: Charles has a cold. laughing.gif Not sure if he's just too drunk and oblivious or in denial, but he doesn't pick up on it right away. Erik does, however. wink.png This takes place a couple of years prior to their official first meeting (Charles saving Erik from drowning), and neither of them remember because they were too drunk, OR (as Spoo suggested) this could be an AU fic. Whatever you want to read it as.

This is also turning out to be longer than I anticipated so rather than make you wait until I finish because I'm a freaking tortoise, I'm breaking it up into two parts so you can at least read the first half now since I'm already three weeks late with this. :\ I hope it's worth the wait!

(Thanks to Spoo for reading this and helping me out with some of Dusty's preferences!)

---

1959

Christmas music crackles out of the old radio on the shelf behind the bar, barely audible over the din of several voices conversing at once. The twenty-fifth came and went, but the elderly barkeep manning the counter is probably too deaf to notice the music, or anything else for that matter, if his messing up Erik's drink order several times tonight is any indication. In the back of his mind Erik can't help but wonder if the Christmas music and the screwed-up drinks are deliberate, if there is a passive-aggressive, unwelcoming message in the man's behavior. The very thought makes the metal shakers behind the counter vibrate ever so slightly.

Erik isn't sure why he even came out tonight. He has been out of sorts lately, restless, and drinking alone in the hotel room wasn't doing much to mellow him out. The last thing he wanted to do on New Year's Eve was venture outside into throngs of lunatics getting drunk and sappy about the end of the year, yet that is exactly what he chose to do. If he can't get rid of this restlessness, why not try embracing it? The flurry of activity around him makes him feel more in sync, and he decides he is glad he came out, despite his slight headache and the bartender's subtle rudeness.

He has been watching the crowd from his corner seat at the bar, people packed tight like sardines, the air thick with their collective body heat. It's a young crowd tonight, mostly kids from the university, drinking too much and laughing too loudly. Erik takes a gulp of his gin -- not what he ordered, but it will do -- and watches over the top of his glass as a young, well-dressed gentleman clambers up onto an empty stool to address the group before him.

"Can I have your attention, please," he says, and the rowdy crowd calms within seconds; Erik can't help but be impressed by the way the young man takes command of the room, himself included. "In an hour or so, we will be ushering in a new decade," he continues, his voice confident and unwavering, but with a slight slur to indicate his drunkenness, "and bidding adieu to the 1950s. But before we do, I would like to be the last person in the old year and the first person in the new one to wish you a healthy and prosperous New Year." He raises his pint, half of its contents sloshing out of the glass and onto the sticky floor below. "To all of you beautiful people!"

Erik isn't one for juvenile gestures, but he finds himself rolling his eyes as everyone raises their glasses in agreement. Beautiful people -- does such a thing exist? Erik eyes the wobbly young man on the stool as he is helped back down now to solid ground by his equally intoxicated friends, and realizes that yes, they may be aesthetically pleasing, like this boy with his blue eyes and charming smirk, but Erik has yet in his thirty-three years on this planet to meet a single human being who is beautiful on the inside.

"Refill?" the barkeep grunts, snapping Erik's attention back to the counter. Case in point.

"Sure," he says, and his glass is carelessly topped off, some of the booze sloshing onto the counter.

As Erik grabs a stack of napkins to begin mopping up the spilt gin he sees a body move into the empty space between his stool and the unoccupied one on his left. He can feel the stranger's body heat melting through the barrier of his personal space and he glances sideways, surprised to see the young man who addressed the crowd moments ago leaning against the counter. "Alright, Peter?" he says, and the barkeep gives a grunt of affirmation, his gruff demeanor softening. "Another round of drinks for everyone, please."

"Sure thing, Charles," he says, and then, looking pointedly at Erik, he adds "And by everyone, you mean your friends, or... ?"

"Everyone here is a friend," Charles says, turning to smile warmly at Erik, who has to take moment to process this unexpectedly kind gesture. "Whatever he gets from now on, put it on my tab."

"Oh no, I couldn't-" Erik begins, quite insistent, but Charles shakes his head, even more insistent.

"Don't be ridiculous," he says, and drunk as he is Erik gets the sense he's being genuine. "It's New Year's Eve."

Erik doesn't see what this has to do with anything, but he shrugs and leaves it at that. If the tipsy schoolboy wants to use his parents' money to fund a stranger's drinking problem, then so be it. He returns to his gin, figuring that this is the end of the conversation, but then Charles climbs onto the stool beside him and orders a glass of merlot. Erik avoids looking at him, hoping to send the message that he prefers to be left alone, and for a moment Charles seems to respect this, chatting quietly with Peter about England's 2-1 victory over Northern Ireland and the team's prospects for the New Year.

Eventually Peter is off to tend to the other patrons. Rather than return to his group, Charles sits beside Erik, humming quietly along to the song on the radio. "Are you a fan of Humphrey Lyttelton?" he asks, and Erik finds himself looking up and meeting those strikingly blue eyes.

"Never heard of him," he says dismissively, glancing back at the radio as the trumpet's tinny wail vibrates the cheap speakers.

"Well, I'm sure you like it much better than that sappy Christmas music they had on before."

Erik stares in silence at the radio, feeling for a moment as if Charles has just read his mind. Of course it was just a lucky guess -- who actually likes Christmas music, anyway, especially when it continues playing well into New Year's Eve? "I suppose," he replies, finding it hard not to engage in conversation with Charles, as much as he would prefer to drink alone, surrounded by others in his own bubble of self-imposed isolation.

There is something oddly charismatic about the boy, and the alcohol only makes him more intriguing. Erik fails to keep his gaze averted from those blue eyes, those soft lips. They are very red, as if Charles has been biting them all night, yet they look smooth and unbroken. He wonders if they are stained by the wine or if they are naturally that red. As Charles tries to make small talk with the human equivilant of a brick wall, Erik finds himself fixating on the boy's mouth, the alcohol like a warm, damp blanket over his brain. His head feels heavy so he rests it against his hand, his elbow sliding a bit across the slick surface of the bar.

Erik stays fixated on the young man's lips until another feature catches his attention. His nose, already a conspicuous appendage by virture of its size and redness, twitches suddenly like a small, startled creature. In one fluid motion Charles grabs a napkin from Erik's stack, pivots about ninety degrees on his stool, and hunches over with a smothered, strangled "'inxgtch!" that makes Erik raise a questioning eyebrow.

"Gesundheit," he says, though he does not sound so sure of himself. After all, he's never heard a sneeze before that sounded like someone stepping on a Guinea pig.

Charles, still twisted away from Erik, tenses up again and lets out a series of similar squeaks. He uses his first uninterrupted breath to apologize, his voice husky and breathless in a way that makes Erik blush inexplicably. Discarding the napkin, Charles pulls a handkerchief out of his pocket and gives his nose a quick blow before picking up the conversation from where he left off as if there hadn't been an interruption. Erik watches the boy's lips move, captivated but only half-listening to the congested words.

That is, until a waver in his voice demands his full attention. "E-excuse me..." Charles manages, his breath already hitching desperately as he unfolds his handkerchief in hurried preparation.

Erik watches, glassy-eyed, and wonders idly if he should look away and give the boy some privacy. But he can't bring himself to avert his eyes, so he watches, unabashedly, as Charles wrangles his wiggling nose in the cloth of his white monogrammed handkerchief. "ehtchhu! heh-ihtchhiu! hiktchh!-u... ihTCHHEEU!"

The group of schoolboys across the bar starts up again, shouting what sounds like a collective but poorly-timed 'bless you!', and Charles emerges from his handkerchief with a sheepish, wavering grin in their direction. Something about the interaction suggests that this is not the first time Charles has had a sneezing fit of this magnitude. He lets out a breathy laugh, then pinches his nose shut with the handkerchief for one final "ngkxsht!-ah," trailing off with a satisfied little sigh.

Erik offers another "Gesundheit" and Charles flashes him a smile that is unbearably charming despite his watery eyes and red nose. He tends to the latter with his handkerchief, sniffing self-consciously, and lets out a liquidy, gurgly blow that makes his cheeks flush.

"I'm afraid I don't know what's causing... this," he says with a flustered gesture with his free hand towards his face.

"Too much wine does that to me," Erik says, though he instantly regrets carelessly sharing this fact with a total stranger. A tendency to disclose more than he would otherwise care to is one of the unfortunate side effects Erik experiences when he drinks.

"I don't think it's the winde," Charles says, his brow knitting as he peers at the glass of ruby liquid. He keeps the handkerchief clamped around his nose but doesn't blow. Perhaps he is trying to recover from the last one; it seemed to drain him of more than the gunk filling his head. Erik can hear it in his voice now, the congested edge that makes one sound like a clogged drain. "I've been sdeezing all day."

"Is it possible you're getting ill?"

"I suppose," Charles says as if having a revelation. "I haven't gottend buch sleep these past few days, and I don't think todight will be buch different."

"You young people and your partying," Erik says with a slight smirk, though he is probably not much older than Charles himself. "You should be at home in bed."

Charles smiles, then ducks into his handkerchief with a few light coughs. He tries to blow his nose again but nothing comes out but forced air and the occasional groan of frustration. Whereas he had been leaking like a faucet just a minute ago, he is now stuffed-up and unable to breathe through his nose. Erik watches, grinning openly at his misery. He is definitely drunk now to be smiling like this in public.

"Whiskey," he suggests, sliding his glass over to Charles. "It'll clear you right out."

Charles looks at the glass of straight whiskey (or gin, or whatever else the bartender decided to fill it with this time) and wrinkles his chapped nose, eyeing Erik's grin suspiciously. "I'd buch prefer a hot toddy. Better on the throat."

"Ah, so you've got a sore throat too?"

Charles gives him a little smile, rubbing his neck guiltily. "You don't mbiss a trick, do you?"

When it's clear that Charles has no interest in the whiskey Erik finishes it off himself. Charles orders two hot toddies, insisting that Erik at least take a sip ("I can't believe you've lived in Ireland for two years and you've never tried one!"). He does, but only because Charles is so insistent. It's too sweet for his taste, so he passes it over to Charles, who has rushed through his own at record speed and happily accepts Erik's. The older man returns to his refilled whiskey glass and they drink and talk about the music on the radio and the crazy weather they've been having. Were it anyone else the conversation would have been dull, but Erik is just drunk enough and Charles more than charming enough to keep their banter lively and pleasant. He never leaves Erik's side, not even when his schoolmates start up a round of Auld Lang Syne and begin migrating to the pub down the street. Erik is so absorbed in his drinks and his companion that the next time he looks at the clock he realizes that 1959 has slipped away without him even noticing.

"Did you not hear everyone shouting 'Happy New Year'?" Charles teases, his cheeks as red as his lips and his nose now.

Erik merely smiles, too drunk to formulate a verbal response. He has this strange desire to rub his thumb over the warm, flushed skin of Charles's face, to touch the corner of his lips just as they break into a smile, but he just manages (just barely) to keep the urge in check. His self-control dangles by a thread that is weakened by every word out of the young man's pretty little mouth.

He happens to be staring intently at the freckles on Charles's nose when it scrunches up again, accompanied by a harsh, desperate gasp. Charles manages to stifle the first sneeze, though Erik can feel some residual spray against his arm. The younger man fumbles with his handkerchief and manages to get it over his nose to catch a second, harsher "Ihhshhhhhhuu!" in the folds of the fabric.

"Gesundheit."

"Thank you," Charles replies breathlessly, blowing his nose and wiping the handkerchief back and forth against the chapped tip before tucking it into his coat pocket. He looks exhausted now, his eyes no longer bright with that boyish enthusiasm that seemed so infinite. "I suppose I should be going hobe and getting caught up od by sleep."

He begins to descend from his stool, tapping the tip of his foot against the ground as if testing the water before taking a few wobbly steps. When it becomes clear that the alcohol has rendered Charles's legs temporarily useless Erik steps off his own stool, wrapping an arm instinctively around the other man's waist to steady him. He can see the barkeep eyeing them, his face tense with an expression that Erik can't quite read. It's too hot in here, too crowded, so he steers Charles towards the exit, towards the relatively fresh air outside on the London streets.

Charles blinks at the streetlights, looking a bit dazed, as if he doesn't know how he ended up outside. He seems to remember Erik and turns to smile at him, his breath forming white clouds in the cool air as he breathes. "If you'd like to walk me hobe, I'm just a few blocks down the road," he says, and though Erik is not too confident in his own legs now that he is standing, he finds himself agreeing to escort Charles home.

As they start down the sidewalk it begins to snow, light flurries twinkling like diamonds under the streetlights.

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Oh my god. OH MY GOD.

You know...they say good things come to those who wait and holy shit, Anony. O_o

I think you've broken me.

AND THERE IS ANOTHER PART! AUGHHHH!

I'm speechless. Thank you so so much for an incredible, well-written, on-point fic that's beyond delicious.

Parts that REALLY made me squirm:

Charles looks at the glass of straight whiskey (or gin, or whatever else the bartender decided to fill it with this time) and wrinkles his chapped nose, eyeing Erik's grin suspiciously. "I'd buch prefer a hot toddy. Better on the throat."

"Ah, so you've got a sore throat too?"

Charles gives him a little smile, rubbing his neck guiltily. "You don't miss a trick, do you?"

UM that spelling of 'much' and the guilty neck rub.... *swoon*

He keeps the handkerchief clamped around his nose but doesn't blow. Perhaps he is trying to recover from the last one; it seemed to drain him of more than the gunk filling his head. Erik can hear it in his voice now, the congested edge that makes one sound like a clogged drain. "I've been sdeezing all day."

I don't even know what to say other than I practically drooled over this bit.

I feel so utterly spoiled. AMAZING ANONY :hug:

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"Gesundheit," he says, though he does not sound so sure of himself. After all, he's never heard a sneeze before that sounded like someone stepping on a Guinea pig.

Hee!

This was great. And there's another part to look forward to? \0/ Hurrah!

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  • 3 weeks later...

DUSTY YAY I really hope you enjoyed it! And that you enjoy this last part. I had a blast writing Charles for you! :) and thanks, everyone, for reading! Now onto part deux.

---

1960

They discuss Charles's educational pursuits and his passion for genetics as they trudge through the fresh snow. Per usual, Erik does not disclose much about himself. He listens as intently as his drunk mind can manage to Charles talk about recessive traits and heterozygo-something, but it is difficult to follow along. He is not particularly science-minded to begin with, outside of metals and magnets. There is something else distracting him, too, something about the way Charles keeps pausing briefly and glancing up at the passing streetlights as they walk. After the third or fourth time he stops suddenly and Erik unknowingly continues on without him for a few steps. There is a gasp behind him and he turns around just in time to see Charles with his eyes scrunched shut, his crinkling nose seeking shelter in the sleeve of his coat. "h'knktch! hih... hi'ihkchh! ... hh'knxshh!"

"Gesundheit," Erik says, though he can tell by the obvious look on Charles's face that he isn't finished yet.

He confirms Erik's suspicions by shaking his head slightly and turning away with another gasp. This time he sneezes more openly towards the ground, a welcome change from the polite, bottled, painful-sounding stifles Erik spent the whole night listening to. "HihhISCHHHuu! hh'... heh!..." The second one needs a little coaxing, which is acomplished again by a quick glance at the streetlamp above him. He tosses up an arm just in time to sneeze towards, not into, the crook of his elbow, a poorly-coordinated attempt at covering. "hihh'IHSCCHHHheeu!"

The spray is visible in the light of the streetlamp, as is the blush creeping into the Englishman's cheeks as he struggles to unfold his handkerchief with his gloved fingers. "Do forgive be," he says, mopping his lips and under his nose and sniffling wetly. He tries to speak again but the congestion makes it nearly impossible, so he turns away with another mumbled apology to blow his nose. When he speaks again his voice is noticeably clearer, though a bit hoarse. "If I had known I'd be making such a scene, I would have stayed in tonight."

"Don't worry about it," Erik says, nodding to a group of young people, perhaps classmates of Charles, staggering out of a nearby pub, their laughter loud enough to wake the whole neighborhood. "It was relatively inconspicuous."

Charles looks reassured. He manages to make it three more blocks to his apartment without interrupting himself again, but he is considerably less talkative. He is in the middle of fumbling for his keys when his nose makes its needs known again, his nostrils twitching visibly. Pressing his knuckles against the underside of his nose, he passes the keys to Erik with a breathy request to open the door, his voice trembling and rising in pitch. Erik unlocks the door in two seconds and spends the next five watching as Charles steeples his gloved hands over his nose and mouth and wrenches forward with a harsh double. "Ihhsshhu! Hhhhshheeu!"

"Gesundheit."

Charles thanks him, his voice muffled in his gloves. He pushes the door open and shuffles inside, keeping one hand over his nose, and Erik stands in the hallway, not sure what to next. He felt somehow it was his obligation to get Charles home safely, and now that that has been accomplished he has no reason to be here. Yet, as he watches the younger man hobble over to the couch, he decides he would like to stay, if Charles will allow him.

As if reading his mind again, Charles turns around and gestures for him to enter. "Sit for a moment, warm up a bit," he says, keeping his voice low. "Mind my roommate, though... she tends to become rather ornery if her sleep is disturbed."

She. Erik squints through the dark entrance at his host, who is smirking slightly as he looks down at a photograph on the side table that Erik can't see. Charles is still a mystery despite the fact that he has been nothing but an open book all night. There is something about him that Erik can't quite put his finger on. Charles moves into another room, out of view, and Erik can hear cupboards opening, teacups and dishes clanking loudly in spite of his warning. As he properly enters the apartment, closing the door quietly behind him, Erik can hear a different sound in the kitchen -- coughing, soft and contained at first, but steadily growing into something more severe. Erik goes down the hall and enters the kitchen, where Charles has his face buried in his elbow as he coughs and wheezes. As he walks towards him Erik notices the abandoned tea bags on the counter.

"Why don't you sit?" he asks, once Charles catches his breath. "I'll take care of the tea."

"Don't be ridiculous, you're a guest."

"And you're clearly very ill," Erik says gently. "You kept a lonely man company all night, the least I can do is make tea."

Charles looks grateful for the opportunity to sit and rest, and he collapses on the couch without further protest. Erik watches him make himself comfortable, reaching over to pull the tissue box on the side table closer to the arm of the couch. Returning his attention to the counter, Erik places two teabags in two cups, then takes a kettle and fills it with water from the tap. He can hear Charles blowing his nose in the next room and what sounds like a neverending stream of congestion. Erik leaves the water to boil and walks into the sitting room, where Charles has a clump of tissues pressed against his nose. His handkerchief is folded and abandoned at the other end of the couch.

"Did you fide everythihg okay?" he asks, sounding just as stuffed up as before.

The tremor in his voice is subtle, but even drunk Erik is pretty good at picking up on subtleties. His chapped, reddened nostrils flare slightly, and Erik watches as they twitch wider and wider until Charles catches his nose between his fingers with the tissues and wipes it roughly. This seems to eliminate the tickle and he relaxes, sniffling and sinking back into the couch. He looks at Erik expectantly and Erik realizes that he never answered his question.

"Yes, the water's boiling," he says. "Could I... get you another one of those?"

He points to the handkerchief beside Charles, who shakes his head 'no' with a slight smirk. "Used theb all up, I'be afraid," he says. "Haven't had the tibe or the edergy to do the wash."

"But you have the energy to go out for a pint," Erik points out.

"Okay, I get it, thank you," he says with a grin. "I'm a young man making daft decisions. It's developmentally appropriate for my age. I have the rest of my life to be an old, boring genius."

A moment later Erik can hear the breathy beginnings of the teapot's whistle. He returns to the kitchen to attend to the water, removing it from the heat and pouring it over the teabags. He isn't sure if Charles drinks his with sugar but he adds a small spoonful just to be safe. He leaves his own tea plain; he won't like the taste regardless of how sweet he makes it, so why waste the sugar on his unpleasable palate?

In the sitting room he sets the tea tray down. Before he can sit Charles gestures towards the loveseat, and Erik turns to find a blanket draped over the back of it. He hands it to Charles, who thanks him politely and wraps it around his shoulders.

"Are you sure you don't want me to call you a cab?" Charles asks, leaning forward a bit to take his teacup. "Had I know you lived in the opposite direction I wouldn't have asked you to walk me home."

"I'll be fine," Erik says, with a reassuring smile.

He sips at his own tea, but right now it's more hot water than tea. Still, it makes him wince a little. He forces himself to swallow and puts the cup back down on the tray, earning himself a grin from Charles.

"I take it you're not a tea person?"

"Not quite, no," he says, smirking. "I thought it would be rude of me to refuse. I suppose I'm more of a whiskey person."

He says it like it's a joke, but it's the truth. There is not much he drinks besides alcohol and water, both probably in equal amounts. "You should drink more tea," Charles suggests. "It's good for you."

Erik shrugs, but then takes another sip for Charles's sake. This mouthful doesn't taste as bad as the last. Maybe he will give this tea thing a try.

Charles finally drinks his own tea, smiling as he glances at Erik. "Perfect," he says. "Just the right amount of sweetness."

Erik smiles in reply, warmth spreading through his body as he swallows the hot, soothing liquid. Soon he will have to brave the harsh weather outside, but until then he tries to enjoy the warmth of Charles's apartment.

The younger man takes another sip of tea, eyes closed in a slight grimace as he swallows. He makes a small "mm" sound in his throat, his brow tensing as he lifts his arm. He lets out a few light, crackly coughs, then sniffles and sinks back into the couch. He keeps his eyes closed and for a moment Erik is convinced that he has drifted off to sleep, but then he sniffles and opens his eyes, looking at Erik with a bleary smile. "It really is perfect, Erik," he says, leaning forward to place the half-empty cup back on the tray and curling his fist over his mouth to hide a yawn. "I'm afraid I can't finish it, though... I can barely keep my eyes open."

"You should be getting to bed," Erik says, putting his own cup down and standing with the tray. "I don't mean to intrude much longer."

Charles protests weakly that he is not intruding, but another yawn interrupts him. Erik brings the tray to the kitchen and rinses out the cups. When he returns to the sitting room Charles is curled up on the couch. "Do you intend on sleeping there?" Erik asks, and Charles opens an eye to look at him before closing it again.

"I'm much too comfy to move now."

"Could I at least get you another blanket? Or some real pillows?"

"Don't fret, Erik, I'll be fine."

Erik looks at him for a moment. Until now he didn't realize how small Charles is, how easily he can fit comfortably on that couch. Were these any other circumstances, Erik believes Charles would be shaking his hand and seeing him to the door, but he just so happened to meet him tonight, at a bar on New Year's Eve, nursing a headcold and after he's had a few.

"Goodnight, Charles," he says, but the young man is breathing slowly now through parted lips, his brow furrowed slightly as he contemplates the complexities of genetics in his dreams.

Erik turns off the lights and prepares himself to face the weather outside. It is a straight shot from the sitting room to the exit, but before he can make it to the door another opens perpendicular to it, blocking him in. There is a shadow and a gasp, and suddenly a young blonde girl is standing in front of him, her hand pressed against her chest in a gesture of surprise. The roommate, awake and wearing nothing but a sheer nightgown. Erik averts his eyes and apologizes, but he can feel the girl staring at him intently, studying him. He carefully meets her eyes and her lips part in a curious grin. "Huh," she says thoughtfully, tilting her head to the side. "You're not his... usual type."

Before he can process this comment she retreats back to her room, closing the door behind her and permitting Erik to pass. "Careful not to trip on the step on your way out," comes her voice from the other side, and Erik does just that as he leaves the apartment, looking back over his shoulder at the sleeping man on the couch and wondering just what exactly his usual type is.

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GUSH! Augh, Anony, you're the best! <3 This is such a delightful gift and hits all my fetishy buttons. Thank you again for the incredible story! I loved part 2 just as much as part 1! :):hug:

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