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Puppy Love

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‘Charles Xavier has a boyfriend. And it’s not me.’

Erik churned the thought around in his head after overhearing the conversation that had played out in the communal kitchen at their accounting firm.

Charles had been talking to a few of their co-workers around the coffee machine, blue eyes impossibly bright and red lips moving with mirth as he chatted. Charles was always so sociable, something that annoyed yet endeared Erik at the same time.

Erik could see him from the window of his office, the smaller man holding a hot cup of tea in his hands, sometimes pursing his lips to gently blow across the steaming cup. He was looking as good as always; slightly overgrown brown hair pushed back behind his ears, small yet fit body wrapped up in a tailored button-up and some tight grey slacks, topped off with polished black shoes. He had forgone his coat and the sleeves of his shirt were pushed up, showing off his smooth and pale arms, slightly dusted with freckles.

Erik may or may not have been nursing a hefty crush on Charles Xavier for months, ever since the man joined their company. Charles was not only the single most attractive man Erik had ever seen in his life, but he was also ridiculously intelligent and surprisingly stubborn, the only one of Erik’s co-workers seeming to match him blow-for-blow in arguments/debates in the break room. At first, their arguments had scared many of the other employees, but over time, people had come to realise that it was just their thing.

So yes, Erik liked Charles Xavier, who would debate politics with him in the break room over a quick game of chess on Charles’s phone. Charles, who wasn’t scared of Erik’s intimidating shark-grin or put off by his aloof personality. Charles, who always smiled at Erik in a way that made it look like his smile held a secret.

Charles laughed at something a co-worker said, Erik getting up and deciding to get a coffee. When Charles saw Erik emerge, his eyes immediately lit up, nodding towards the taller man with that smile on his face.

Erik gave Charles a small smile in return as he pushed at the espresso button on the coffee machine.

“Are you sure you’re not coming to Friday night drinks with us?” Sean, a co-worker, pouted at Charles. The blue-eyed man just shook his head. “But Charles! You’ve been skipping out on drinks for the past few weeks!”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Charles apologised, though he didn’t sound apologetic in the slightest. “Now that Logan’s living with me, I try to get home earlier to eat with him. Plus, I don’t like the thought of him waiting up for me in bed.”

What.

Erik’s espresso had finished spurting out from the machine, which made a pained hissing noise, but Erik couldn’t hear it over the ringing in his ears.

‘Who the fuck is Logan?’  

Erik whirled around to Charles, who only had a gentle smile on his face, one that was so soft and lovely that Erik faltered.

‘Charles never smiles like that at anyone. Not even me. Logan must be…’

“You’re so whipped, Charles,” Alex, another co-worker quipped, Charles only beaming in response. Erik frowned, heart knotting together – Charles obviously loved Logan, who was obviously his boyfriend, dearly. A man did not smile at the thought of someone with that tender a look in his eyes and a smile that lovely without being head-over-heels in love. That was why Erik was confused about the way Charles had been looking at him. Was Erik so out of touch that he had misread the signs?

“I also need to go home and clean up after him. He’s fond of making a mess around the house, unfortunately,” Charles said, though he didn’t sound annoyed in the slightest, only endeared.

‘I wouldn’t make a mess in our house,’ Erik thought bitterly to himself. Erik was neat by nature, and looking at Charles’s cluttered and messy desk at work, Erik had always imagined that his home would be the same. For someone who liked order as much as Erik, the fantasy of fondly chastising Charles for leaving mugs around or his books scattered everywhere had only made Erik smile in the privacy of his thoughts.

But now that he knew that Charles had a boyfriend that he lived with, that’s all those thoughts were – mere fantasies.

“Sounds like a hassle to me, though,” Moira said with an amused smile, Charles just laughing, his azure eyes crinkling in the corners.

“Yes, well, I love him so I don’t mind,” Charles said gently, Erik’s heart crumbling to pieces.

‘G-tt, Charles really loves this guy – his boyfriend. When the hell did Charles get a boyfriend?’

Charles turned around to Erik properly then, bright smile still on his face. He opened his mouth to say something to the German man, but Erik did not hang around to hear it, needing to get out of there.

Erik hastily grabbed his espresso, almost scalding himself in the process, and hightailed it back to his office with a slam of the door behind him. When he got there, Erik just sat down at his desk, coffee rapidly growing lukewarm and his mind clouded with static.

Because fuck, Charles Xavier had a boyfriend that he really, really loved.

A boyfriend that wasn’t Erik.

***

Now that Erik knew Charles was not single, he made every effort to snuff out any attraction he had to the man. Or at least deny it, because even though Charles was out of bounds, Erik could not stop thinking that his red lips were extremely kissable, or feel the need to brush his fingers through Charles’s thick, chocolate locks whenever he saw the man hunching over some documents while nibbling on the capped end of a pen.

It did not help that Charles didn’t stop flirting with him either, even though he had someone called Logan waiting for him at home and in his bed, as Charles so often mentioned.

Erik tried his best – he really did – but it seemed like Charles was making a huge effort to be even more irresistible than usual. Charles and Erik worked in the same department, and as the two most productive members of the team, Erik couldn’t avoid him even if he tried. So, Erik just aimed to be strictly professional as they reviewed accounts.

“There’s an error here,” Erik said gruffly, clicking his tongue in annoyance as he circled an issue in the report Sean had written up. Charles hummed, walking over until he was right beside Erik, their shoulders bumping. Erik sucked in a tight breath when he felt Charles steady himself by placing a hand on the back of his chair. Charles then leaned in over Erik’s shoulder and nibbled on his pen with those obscenely red lips, reaching for the papers in Erik’s hand and making their fingers brush as he did so.

‘G-tt, Charles smells like… coconut shampoo?’ Erik groaned, getting a solid whiff of Charles’s soft yet sweet scent. Charles never smelled like the sharp tang of aftershave like Erik, but of clean soap, mint and fabric softener.

Erik always imagined that would be what home smelled like.

“Mm, yes. There is a similar issue in one of the documents Moira sent through. We should probably tell the team if it’s a consistent issue,” Charles mused, turning his head to peer down at Erik, still so, so close. Erik swallowed thickly when Charles smiled, pen tapping at his plush lower lip and eyes bright as he looked through his dark lashes. “Are you alright, Erik? You look a little flushed.”

“I’m fine,” Erik grumbled out, pushing on his desk to make his wheeled-chair put some distance between him and Charles. Charles blinked, his smile seeming to freeze for a moment, the pen dropping from his lips.

Charles then opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted by Moira poking her head through the open door of Erik’s office. Erik didn’t know if he was irritated or relieved by her interruption, but turned his head towards her, face producing its signature scowl.

“What is it, Moira?” Erik asked, voice a little snappy. Moira flinched, Charles giving Erik a raised brow, before the brown-haired woman cleared her throat and spoke.

“I just have a message for Charles. Your sister was trying to get through to you on your phone, but you left it in your office so she bombarded me with messages instead,” Moira said, Charles frowning.

“Is Raven alright?” Charles asked, a little worried. Erik began frowning at the crinkle in Charles’s brow, wanting to smooth it out with his fingers. Erik knew that Charles loved his sister dearly, having told Erik over crappy office coffee that his sister was the only person he considered family.

Erik had, at that point, fantasised about how he could add to Charles’s family.

“Oh, it’s nothing like that. She was just desperate to know if you and Logan were coming over to her place for dinner. She’s at the shops and needs to know if she needs to cook extra,” Moira said, Charles’s frown disappearing and being quickly replaced with a wide smile.

‘Fuck, that Logan guy again,’ Erik growled silently, hands tightening around the papers in his hand, crinkling them. Charles’s smile made Erik’s chest squeeze tightly, at both its beauty and the fact that it wasn’t a smile for Erik, but for Logan. Verdammt.

For Charles’s sister to be so excited about having Charles’s boyfriend over for dinner, she must like the man a whole lot as well. Shit. The fact that the boyfriend has integrated into the Xavier family to such an extent meant that this relationship was definitely serious.

And yet, Charles was still pressing himself into Erik’s side and giving him those seductive smiles and heated glances, looking at Erik like he knew that if he kept pressing, Erik wouldn’t be able to resist him any longer.

“Logan does have a big appetite,” Charles giggled – actually giggled – getting up from where he sat beside Erik. Charles squeezed Erik’s shoulder, leaning down to murmur ‘I’ll be right back, let me just message my sister’ into Erik’s ear, his hand searing hot.

Erik just watched as Charles, both angry at the man for playing with his feelings when he was clearly in a relationship, and upset at himself for not being able to control his feelings for Charles.

***

It was about a month later that Erik found himself at the staff Christmas party, and as a Jewish man (albeit a very loose one), Erik had never been particularly fond of Christmas. It wasn’t because of a religious thing (again, Erik was a very loose practitioner of the Jewish faith), but because he found the whole thing extremely tacky and obnoxious. The way ‘Christmas Cheer’ was shoved down your throat, and how an old, fat, bearded man got paid to have children sit on his lap had always made Erik grimace.

Still, Erik had been roped in to attend the staff Christmas party, even when he made it obvious that he did not want to be there. Moreover, Erik had made it clear that he was not going to participate in the gift swap, and merely stood on the sidelines nursing a warm and watered-down beer as his co-workers all squealed while opening their gifts one-by-one.

Most of the gifts were the punchlines of long-running jokes, and of course, a number of them held sexual connotations that left the gift-givers rolling around in drunken hysterics while other co-workers snickered as they watched on. Sean had been given a ball gag which stemmed from an office consensus that he was overly talkative and needed to shut up 99% of the time. Moira got a vibrator because she was ‘single-as-fuck’ as Alex put it, while Alex himself got a pair of fuzzy pink handcuffs that everyone burst out laughing at – Erik didn’t socialise enough with the rest of his co-workers to get the inside joke.

Erik was mainly disinterested in the whole gift exchange, until Charles’s gift was plucked out from the pile. Erik’s eyes lifted from his feet to the man, whose cheeks were a little red with drink, a paper crown perched wonkily atop his head. He smiled happily as he began unwrapping his present, looking far too adorable for Erik to handle.

“Oh! I love it!” Charles exclaimed, and Erik leaned forward slightly to see a bit better from his distant vantage point outside of the circle of employees. When Erik saw what Charles was holding in his hands, he immediately choked on the mouthful of stale beer he had in his mouth.

Charles was holding a black leather collar with a silver name plate on the front.

Considering the fact that all of the previous gifts had been overtly sexual, Erik’s mind went straight into the gutter as Charles twirled the collar in his hand. Erik coughed after swallowing his beer, pushing the image of Charles in said collar splayed out on satin sheets out of his head. Erik has had many fantasies about Charles, and though many were quite kinky in nature, Erik’s mind had not ventured into collar territory and G-tt, Erik’s cock twinged at the mental image. At least until Charles opened his mouth to speak again.

“Logan will love this!” Charles chirped, Erik’s heart plummeting. “Let me guess – Moira, this is from you, right?”

“You got it, Charles,” Moira said, Charles giving the woman a tight hug. “You told me that your last one broke when Logan got a bit rough, so I figured I should get you a new one.”

‘Oh, G-tt, I didn’t need to know that,’ Erik groaned internally, beginning to feel a little sick.

“I did. Thank you, Moira,” Charles said, looking far too touched to have just received a fucking collar for his boyfriend by a co-worker. Erik knew that Charles and Moira were close, but he didn’t think they were close enough for Charles to give her a play-by-play of his sexual exploits with his boyfriend.

Erik couldn’t care less about the Christmas party or the gift giving any longer, so he quickly chugged the rest of his beer, wanting to get out of the office, to be anywhere but there.

Before Erik made it to his car, he was stopped by a familiar ‘Erik!’, a hand grabbing onto the fold of his elbow. Erik’s stomach flipped as he turned, knowing the feel of that hand on his arm and the lilt of an English accent wrapping around his name.

Charles was panting a little having chased after Erik, the two of them standing alone in the silent carpark. Charles’s cheeks were still red, but maybe even more so now after physically exerting himself to catch up with Erik. Charles must have felt hot after running, unbuttoning another button on his shirt, exposing more of his milky, smooth skin.

G-tt, he was beautiful.

“I know you don’t celebrate Christmas, Erik, but did you really need to leave without telling anyone?” Charles said, smiling as he pretended to scold Erik. The German just shrugged, tucking his hands into the pockets of his pants to stop from grabbing onto Charles instead, wanting to do nothing more than to tug the dishevelled man into his arms.

“What are you doing here, Charles?” Erik mumbled, Charles smiling in response. It was then that Erik noticed that he had a hand held behind his back, one that quickly revealed itself to procure a small package wrapped in brown parchment and twine. There was a simple card slipped beneath the tightly bound cord reading ‘Erik – Happy holidays, my dearest friend. Yours, Charles’.

“What’s this?” Erik asked dumbly, Charles laughing and grabbing Erik’s wrist to get him to take the gift.

“A present, obviously,” Charles said, smiling up at Erik sweetly.

“I wasn’t part of the gift exchange.”

“Oh, I know. This isn’t part of the exchange. I just wanted to give you a present, because you’re…” Charles said, biting on his lower lip, ears turning a little pink. “Anyway. Just open it. Please.”

Erik looked at Charles for a moment, the man’s endless blue eyes urging him to open the gift. So, Erik did, fingers a little stiff as he undid the twine and slipped his finger beneath the sticky tape. When he pulled the wrapping paper off the package, his mouth dropped open slightly.

The Once and Future King,” Erik read, opening the worn cover. It felt like his heart had jumped into his throat, an emotion largely unfamiliar to the man washing over him. “First edition?”

“Yes,” Charles said, seeming to find Erik’s wondrous reaction to his liking. Charles reached forward then to reach for the book, fingers brushing over the well-loved pages to point at something scrawled on the second page – C.F.X. “My first edition, to be precise. You said it was your favourite book but that you couldn’t find it when you moved, so I figured I’d give you mine. Well, it’s yours now, I suppose. Happy holidays, Erik.”

“Charles…” Erik breathed out, unable to say much else. Charles just smiled, head tilting to the side as he gazed up at Erik. Erik looked back at the man, wanting to kiss him desperately, to devour his cherry red mouth and taste every inch of him. Charles noticed Erik’s eyes dropping to his lips, the shorter man licking them and leaning in slightly, eyes fluttering closed.

Erik began drifting into Charles’s orbit, close enough to feel Charles’s bated breath dust his cheek.

But then Erik remembered – boyfriend, collar, Logan.

Erik took a quick step back, Charles feeling the suddenly coldness between them, blue eyes flicking open with a trace of hurt.

“Thank you for the gift,” Erik said stiffly, taking another step back. “And happy holidays to you, too. See you next year, Charles.”

With that, Erik whirled on his feet and power-walked to his car, breathing heavily. Erik regarded the book in his hands, thumbs brushing over the pages that he knew Charles’s fingers had touched in a similar way, before thudding his head on the hard cover.

“He has a boyfriend, Erik. Get a fucking grip,” Erik muttered to himself, pinching the bridge of his nose tightly. “You’ve got to get over him by the new year.”

But, when did people ever go through with their New Year’s resolutions?

***

Erik spent the New Year with his mother, Edie, who cooked enough to feed a small country even though it was only the two of them celebrating. Even though the mainstream New Year wasn’t Rosh Hashanah, the mother and son still saw each other, taking the holiday to spend some quality time together. Erik was always busy with work, so he appreciated the holiday, giving him time to visit his mother properly.

Edie had discreetly asked her son if he was going to bring anyone over for this particular New Year, but like always, Erik had said ‘No, Mama, there’s no one’. Usually, Erik didn’t really care that he had no one to bring – his usual one-night-stands were just that, and he hadn’t met anyone that he actually wanted his mother to meet.

This year, though, Edie had noticed the way Erik’s mouth pressed into a tight line as he said ‘No, Mama, there’s no one’, but she didn’t say anything. The woman just gave her son a knowing look, sat him down at her small dining table and murmured “You’re looking a little skinny, Schatz. Eat a lot now, and I’ll pack the rest for you to take home.”

Erik stayed at his mother’s house that night, squeezing onto his small childhood bed that he had grown out of a long time ago. His mind drifted to Charles once or twice (or maybe a lot more than that), wondering what he was doing for New Years. Charles probably went to see the Times Square Ball Drop with Logan, kissing him as the countdown fell to zero. He probably murmured ‘Happy New Year, Darling’ to his boyfriend with his luscious accent and wide blue eyes, red mouth curved up in an endearing smile. Charles probably went home that night and had wonderful New Year’s sex with Logan (collar and all), while Erik lay sleepless and alone in his too-small bed.

Erik left his mother’s house the morning after, both arms laden with bags filled with Tupperware containers containing potatoes, sweet brisket and other Edie Lehnsherr specialties.

Erik hadn’t taken his car, since the previous day he had wanted to walk in the crisp winter air to clear his head. He regretted it now, though, Edie packing him far too much food, the added weight making the walk back to his apartment more tedious than usual.

It was when Erik was passing by a park near his mother’s house that he saw a familiar man standing on the grass through a gap in the leafless trees, bundled up in a thick dark grey coat, black trousers, fingerless gloves and a plush beige muffler. Erik’s steps slowed when he immediately recognised the dark chestnut hair and pale freckled skin as the man turned slightly, mouth curled into a tranquil smile.

Erik watched as Charles pulled his scarf tighter around his neck, the morning breeze biting. Then, he raised a gloved hand to his mouth, calling out.

“Logan! Come back here!”

Erik flinched, knowing that he should just keep walking – he didn’t need to see Charles’s boyfriend, he didn’t really want to. He didn’t want to be hurt when he saw the man that Charles loved, the man that was probably nothing like Erik.

Because Charles would never love Erik, not the way he loved Logan. Logan, who waited for Charles in bed every night, Logan who Charles made sure to eat dinner with every night, Logan who was basically a part of Charles’s family already.

Erik knew he would be hurt, but he was riveted to the spot, eyes squinting as he tried to look past the trees at the man Charles was calling to.

One second, two seconds, three seconds passed.

And then, Erik saw him.

A large German shepherd darted across the grass, chewed-out tennis ball lodged in its mouth and brown tail wagging energetically. Charles let out a gentle, melodic laugh as the dog bounded over to him, and bent down to rub at the fur behind the large dog’s ears, pressing a kiss to its head before grabbing the tennis ball from its gob.

“Good boy, Logan,” Charles said in a cooing tone, the dog barking as it licked at Charles’s hand affectionately, coaxing another laugh from the man. Erik’s mouth just dropped open at Charles’s words.

Logan.

‘Logan is a dog?!’ Erik’s mind screamed, eyes wide as he watched Charles throw the tennis ball, which flew in an arc…

Towards Erik.

Charles’s eyes followed the ball, which bounced off a tree trunk and rolled to a stop by Erik’s feet. The dog – Logan – sprinted with laser focus towards the bright green ball, but Erik didn’t look at him. No, Erik was just looking at Charles, who had now noticed Erik standing there, his blue eyes widening.

‘If Logan is a dog, then Charles doesn’t actually have a…’

The two men stared at each other, fixed in some kind of stale mate as the winter winds threaded through their hair. It was only when Logan reached Erik, barking up at the man before retrieving his ball, that Charles began walking forward as well.

“Erik,” Charles said, breath puffing out in the cold when he neared Erik. Logan circled his owner’s legs, tail slapping against Charles’s shins. Charles’s smile was a little weak, and his shoulders were hunched like he wasn’t sure if it was alright for him to approach the taller man. Reaching down, Charles softly grabbed on to Logan’s collar – the black leather one Moira got him in the Christmas gift exchange – to hold the energetic dog still.

“I didn’t expect to see you here,” Charles said quietly, Erik nodding in return, swallowing the lump in his throat.

“I’m on my way back from my mother’s house,” Erik supplied, Charles humming, absent-mindedly stroking Logan’s fur.

“And I hope you had a good New Year?” Charles said, the attempt at small talk a little painful, but Erik nodded again, clearing his throat.

“Yes. I, um, always spend it with my mother,” Erik said, before lifting the bags of left overs in his arms. “I also always end up bringing back too much left-over food. My mother always makes too much for just the two of us.”

Charles laughed a little at that, though it didn’t quite meet his eyes.

“Sounds nice,” Charles replied, a little wistful. “I just spent the new year with Logan here. Raven went to the ball drop with her girlfriend, but I, ah, wasn’t quite feeling up to it. But, I very much enjoyed my microwaved mac n’ cheese, and Logan enjoyed his steak.”

‘Charles did spend the New Year with Logan, but Logan is a dog and not Charles’s boyfriend… If Charles just spent it with his dog then he doesn’t have a boyfriend?’ Erik’s mind whirled, his heart thundering in his rib cage.

“Oh,” Erik said, the silence between them heavy with everything unsaid. Logan’s head, mouth still holding the slobbered tennis ball, looked between Erik and his owner, before letting out a whine, Charles’s eyes dropping to the dog.

“Are you hungry, Logan?” Charles murmured, rubbing under the dog’s chin, before looking back at Erik. “Well, the two of us should probably get going. It was lovely seeing you though, Erik. I’ll see you back at work next week.”

Charles gave Erik another weak smile, clipping a striped leash onto Logan’s collar, before turning around. Charles took a few steps, Logan trotting loyally beside him, before Erik dislodged the boulder in his throat.

“Wait!” Erik called out, rushing after Charles, who turned, surprised. Charles just raised a brow, Erik sucking in a breath before speaking, eyes locked with Charles’s.

“Like I said, I have too much food. Did you… I mean… If you wanted to… Would you like to come back to my place and have lunch?” Erik offered, Charles’s blue eyes widening, red lips parting slightly.

“Oh,” Charles whispered, looking genuinely surprised. “I’d… I’d love to, Erik. But I didn’t think you…”

Erik frowned as Charles’s voice tapered off with things unsaid.

“Didn’t think I what?” Erik asked, hiding his nerves behind his naturally gruff tone.

Charles licked his lips, not out of seduction, but out of nervousness.

“Well, after the Christmas party… in the carpark… I didn’t think you were interested,” Charles said, voice quiet. He looked at his shoes, at Logan, before peering up at Erik hesitantly. “I didn’t exactly hide my interest, and when you pulled back I figured that was your answer. So…”

Charles shrugged, hand tightening around Logan’s leash.

‘G-tt Erik, you’re an idiot,’ Erik groaned to himself, shaking his head and stepping closer to Charles, until their toes almost brushed. Erik gently nudged Charles’s chin upwards, the younger man looking at him with confusion and a glimmer of hope.

Their breaths danced in the cold air between them, puffs of white in the morning chill. Erik brushed his finger over Charles’s cheek, red from the cold and maybe from something else, the mean leaning into Erik’s touch.

“I’m sorry,” Erik said, letting out a short, self-deprecating snort. “I was an idiot. I’m interested in you too, Charles. I have been for, G-tt, a long, long time now.”

“Then why did you pull away that time? When we were about to…” Charles whispered, bringing his hand up to press against the one Erik placed on his cheek.

“I thought you had a boyfriend,” Erik blurted out, his own cheeks heating at the now-ridiculous admission. Charles blinked, looking confused.

“What on earth made you think that, my friend?” Charles asked, letting out a tiny, amused laugh. “Who did you think was my boyfriend?”

Erik was silent, now thoroughly embarrassed, though his eyes dropped to the slightly menacing-looking dog sitting patiently by Charles’s side. Charles caught the movement, his eyes lighting up with mirth and a choked laugh escaping his mouth.

“Logan?” Charles asked, incredulous. Erik’s cheeks reddened further. “You thought that Logan, my dog, was my boyfriend?”

“It sounds stupid when you say it like that, but yes, I did,” Erik huffed, rolling his eyes as Charles burst out laughing. Erik’s heart sung with the sound of the man’s genuine, bubbly, eye-crinkling laughter.

“You are a fool,” Charles said after his laughter petered out, though his lips held the remnants of his elated smile. Charles’s eyes softened immeasurably as he looked up at Erik, his eyes beholding him with even more warmth than when he would talk about Logan. “But I guess I should clear things up. Erik, I most definitely do not have a boyfriend. I haven’t had one for a while. Certainly not since I’ve met you. And this is Logan, my dog.”

“So I gathered,” Erik murmured, Charles smiling as he lifted himself onto his toes, reaching forward with his free hand to cup Erik’s chin, pressing a long-overdue kiss to the taller man’s lips. Erik sunk into the warmth and softness of his mouth, wrapping an arm around Charles’s waist and tugging him closer, the two of them fitting together like they were made for each other.

The shorter man laughed against Erik’s mouth once more, a little breathless, before the two of them pulled back, matching smiles on their faces.

“I’m expecting an explanation on why you thought that I was dating my dog over lunch,” Charles said, mirth dancing in his voice, Erik cracking a toothy grin.

Erik knew he should be mortified, but when Charles was looking at him like that, he honestly could not care less.

‘Because Charles Xavier does not have a boyfriend. But if he had one, it would be me.’