Fandom: X-Men: First Class
Summary: Never trust spiritual leader who cannot dance - Mr. Miyagi
Notes: I was watching Atonement and suddenly inspired by that scene where Robbie is writing the letter to Cecelia and he stretches his leg out and perfectly wraps his hand around his foot. Suddenly, all I could think of was Charles, raised as a dancer. Hastily written at the asscrack of dawn, so don't hold the insanity against me.
There was only one way to turn it off--to forget for one moment the distance his mind stretched before it reached its boundaries. The only way he knew how to describe it was like shutting a door on a wild party and suddenly getting peace and quiet.
It had been a long time since he’d needed it. At Oxford, there were other ways--sex, and alcohol, or endless inexorable hours of study.
He wondered at first if he’d lost it, if his flexibility still remained. It wouldn't surprise him if it had deserted him, but the thought was strangely nerve-wracking. Would his muscles severely regret this in a couple of minutes? He bent to touch his toes and smiled at the way his body smoothly obeyed him, allowing him to press his forehead to his knees, with the barest twinge.
He should stretch longer, especially so far away from his old days of constant practice, but his muscles quivered to fly into motion and for once he allowed caution to capitulate to temerity.
There was no music, but he didn’t need it. He started with an attitude, reveling in the stretch and pull in his hip flexors, muscles he’d been barely conscious of in a long, long while. He breathed in and out, holding the pose, before straightening his leg into an arabesque. There was something about the force involved in this specific movement that brought confidence and surety that he was the only one in his head. That he was a single being rather than many.
With a soft exhale he brought his leg back to earth and straightened up. There were mirrors in the room, but he avoided looking in them. It didn't matter, he could picture what he looked like, flushed and amazed, in cutoff sweatpants and a threadbare Oxford t-shirt his instructors would've frowned at. A smile came, unbidden, to his lips. He pressed the ball of his bare foot into the three-hundred year old mahogany floor and opened his eyes on his reflection. He nodded at his double firmly, taking a breath and holding it.
'There’s only this,' he repeated firmly in his own head, 'you are all alone.'
Resolute, he struck out across the floor and leapt into a double tours en l'air that he landed with flawless abandon. In that moment, he was lost in a world that ended precisely at his skin.
Erik was reading the newspaper in the room they’d appropriated as a common space when he heard the first soft thud. He ignored it, figuring it was just Alex or Sean being rowdy in one of the many cavernous spaces this infernal mansion was filled with and turned back to the article on James Meredith, who had to be escorted to class by federal marshals, when he started school at University of Mississippi earlier in the week. He made a sound in the back of his throat and tossed the paper aside. Humans.
He noticed then that the thuds hadn’t stopped, that they had escalated even. It wouldn't surprise him if Alex and Sean had decided it was a good idea to play basketball in the grand ballroom just down the hall. Moira had already stopped them from playing catch in the hallways around priceless antiques. Sometimes their level of immaturity made him want to tranquilize them and store their bodies neatly in a closet until they were needed. Charles had claimed he didn't mind if anything was broken and even tipped a Tiffany vase on the floor to prove it, but Erik had hoped he'd put the fear of God in them, when Charles' back was turned. Apparently not.
He got to his feet with a grimace. If they had energy to run rambunctiously around the house then they’d probably have the energy to do a thousand pushups.
The door to the ballroom was ajar and Erik pushed it open, preparing to yell at the boys, and had to stop in shock. He found Charles stripped to the waist in raggedy pants, a t-shirt tossed carelessly across the floor, right in his path as he sprung up in a jump. He appeared to pause in midair before coming back down again, the thud explained by the landing. Charles’ knees bent as his body accepted the force of the leap and then his leg was extending upwards like his muscles were elastic and there was no gravity. Charles was short for a man by any standard, but there, as he twisted and arched, muscles tensing in sharp relief, his legs and arms seemed impossibly long. Erik’s hand tightened on the doorframe.
Erik became conscious of people crowding behind him and glanced over his shoulder to find everybody clustered around, trying to peer past him. Charles, amazingly, was completely unaware of his rapt audience.
He twirled and then slowed, arms extended in a moment of stillness that nevertheless exuded as much control and precision as the leaps. Erik found himself swallowing. The kids shoved in still closer, door gaping wider to accommodate them all. If it wouldn't have broken the moment, he would've shooed them away.
Charles executed a series of tight steps before erupting off the floor again, turning in mid air as his legs split.
“Whoa,” Alex said softly. Erik was inclined to agree with him.
Raven smiled, although there was something sad about the edges. “It’s called a tour jeté,” she whispered.
“Who cares what it’s called,” Alex said, “I’m still stuck on the fact that the professor is a ballet dancer!”
“Nothing will ever shock me again,” Hank replied, shaking his head as Charles leaned back, his spine forming a perfect arch.
Raven snorted and it was loud enough that it penetrated whatever oblivion Charles was lost in and he paused mid move, straightening and turning to face them. His hips squared and arms dropped to his sides, immediately inhabiting another body, the one that was familiar to them all.
His face was red and his breath came hard, sweat shining on his chest. He pushed his hair out of his eyes and said breathlessly. “I didn’t realize I had company.”
“We noticed,” Erik said dryly.
Charles raised his brows and lifted his leg, hand twisting around his ankle so that he could pull it upwards in a taut stretch. The ballet dancer was back.
“Still in fighting trim?” Raven asked, clearly very happy.
Charles smiled faintly, ducking his head. “It appears so.”
“We’ll leave you alone then,” Raven said to him and started pulling everybody away from the door. Erik was the last to go.
“When did he start uh…dancing?” Alex asked, eyes on the closed door with Charles on the other side of it.
“Oh, very young. Sharon, his mother, always wanted him to be a dancer,” Raven said. “Charles’ stepfather didn’t think it was appropriate. He made Charles feel very bad about it I think, but he…but he never stopped.”
“He must love it,” Erik said quietly, picturing the serene expression on Charles’ face, the way his eyelids dipped down as he reached out towards something only he could see.
Raven shrugged. “He says the discipline taught him how to keep minds out, but then suddenly he just stopped when we got to Oxford.” She sighed. “I’m just glad he’s doing it again. He’s beautiful when he dances.”
Sean and Alex snickered and Raven glared at them fiercely. “Shut up! I don’t care how you feel about it!”
“Raven! I’m sorry,” Alex protested, “It’s just, come on, ballet? It’s a little funny, you have to admit.”
“You’re an ass!” she shot back, heatedly. Erik raised his brows.
Alex and Sean shrugged at each other and bolted off down the corridor to wreak mayhem elsewhere. Erik only then remembered his pushup scheme and he cursed himself for forgetting. Left in the sudden awkward silence Hank made some noise about returning to the lab, leaving Erik and Raven, standing disconnected in the hallway. She shot a look at him, daring him to say something. He stared back evenly and she blew out a breath and walked off, shaking her head. Erik peeked back over his shoulder, through the slight crack in the doors, he could see Charles spinning in place. He decided to leave Charles alone.
When Charles got down to dinner that night, it appeared the whole thing was forgotten. Everybody was rowdy around the dinner table, wildly talking about Hank’s latest experiments and whooping about how Sean had embarrassed himself again.
He’d worked himself up into a pretty good state after they’d left him, wondering if he'd irrevocably changed how the others saw him. It made him want to break all his rules and take a peek inside their heads. By the grace of some god, Moira hadn’t been with them. He had no idea what she’d think about it and he wouldn’t hasten to find out. He had gotten a very strong sense of amusement once he'd thought to pay attention to his surroundings again, and he supposed it was amusing, his many contradictions. However they felt, the urge to dance in that moment had been as necessary and important as breathing. It had been wonderful, like every part of him was solidly present, and he wasn’t going to be made to feel bad about it. So he was glad when everybody seemed content not to mention it.
He kept catching Erik looking at him over the surprisingly tasty roast dinner Alex had prepared. It was mildly uncomfortable and confusing. Charles could never avoid loud thoughts. He didn’t like to share this with others, because there was nothing they could do to prevent it. He didn’t want to embarrass anybody permanently by alerting them to the fact he had inside access to their deep ruminations. But Erik was different, as soon as Charles had explained what he was and what he was capable of, he’d effectively managed to think as quietly as Charles had ever encountered. Ordinarily Charles was glad of it, but in a time like this, Charles found it irksome. He guiltily berated himself for being silly. He was perfectly happy to be around people who weren’t spilling out things about their troubled kids, or their mortgage, or their unhappy jobs—all the fears and worries he was subjected to on a daily basis. He shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, nor want to violate the sanctity of someone else’s mind for no effective gain.
“You look like you’re thinking very hard,” Erik said, amused, when everybody else was distracted by a debate over The Beatles and The Beach Boys.
Charles looked down at his plate and realized he was pushing his peas around. “It’s nothing,” he replied, shaking his head.
“Charles, nobody cares if you can pirouette perfectly,” Erik said, giving him a pointed look.
Charles merely hummed in acknowledgement and tried to put it out of his head.
He hadn't intended to do it again, but the next day he was back in the ballroom--this time with a pair of split-sole cotton slippers that Raven had presented him when she caught him alone. And yet the joy of yesterday was gone. Today was rigid, stale almost. All of Charles’ training had been in classical ballet--his mother had clearly desired another Sir Frederick Ashton out of her son. Something deep and forgotten twinged inside of him. He never wanted to be a disappointment, but sometimes he wished he could’ve studied modern dance.
Without his conscious knowledge the rote steps fell away and he started moving just for movement’s sake, gliding across the floor, sinuous, each step occurring without his premeditation. He kept his gaze firmly focused inward, trying not to glance in the mirror. And there, he had it, the silence and quiet was back. Finally when his muscles started to tire, strained from working so hard after years of ignoring them, he stopped.
And nearly fell over when he heard clapping. He whirled around to find Erik leaning up against one of the mirrors, nonchalantly, god only knew when he’d slipped in the room.
“You didn’t notice I was here?”
Charles shrugged. “When I do this, everything is endlessly me and not the thousands of minds I encounter on a daily basis.”
“How poetic,” Erik said, but the smile on his face belied the mocking words. Charles shrugged and sank to the floor to stretch, ignoring the way Erik stared at him. “Raven said you stopped when you got to school.”
Charles shrugged, reaching for his ankles in a pike position. “I didn’t need it as much when I got there. I was in my element, I think.”
Erik raised a single brow, skeptical. “Really?”
Charles sighed. “Yes, and I suppose a good part of me didn’t want them to see me the way my stepfather saw me.”
The word 'nancy' hung in the air unspoken between them. Charles dropped his eyes and spread his legs into a straddle, leaning forward again so that his forearms rested flat on the floor. He groaned at the stretch all through the back of his legs.
“All right?” Erik asked.
“Just pushed myself a bit too hard I think,” he said, straightening up. The muscle in his left thigh was jumping under the skin. He shoved at it with the heel of his hand and sighed. “Just going to be feeling it for a couple of days.”
Erik stepped away from the mirror, eyes intent on Charles’ leg. “May I?”
“May I see it?”
Charles stared at him uncomprehendingly. “Er, well—that is—if you want?”
Erik knelt down beside him, gesturing for Charles to stretch his legs out in front of him. Charles rolled his eyes, but obeyed. He was slightly confounded and was not entirely comfortable with the prospect. Yet, as was beginning to become habit with Erik, he gave in.
Erik tugged his leg toward him and then pressed his thumbs deep into the knotted muscle. Charles groaned and gasped, torso trying to twist away. “Ugh, Christ, that hurts. What are you doing?”
“Making it better,” Erik said, pushing down with the heels of his palms. It hurt so bad that Charles was sure he’d be one big bruise when he pulled his pants off. He breathed hard, muscle locking up under Erik’s hands. Erik did the same thing with the side of his thigh, thumbs pushing so deep into the muscle, Charles felt like he was hitting the bone. He could hear his nails scraping the polyurethane off the floor as the hands that braced him up clenched.
Erik let go. “Breathe, Charles.”
Charles took deep gasping breaths, face pressed into his shoulder. Erik smacked his thigh and said, “Well?”
Their faces were very close, Erik’s green eyes hooded as he stared back at him. Charles swallowed, gaze darting away. His mouth felt suddenly very dry. He hoped Erik wouldn’t notice his discomfiture and busied himself with his leg. With a blown out breath, he pointed his toe, turning his foot in a circle until it cracked before leaning his torso over the leg. The pull wasn’t so bad this time, and when Charles ran his hand over his quadriceps it was noticeably looser.
He looked up to say thank you and found Erik’s expectant look. Something about it made him irrationally annoyed. Charles huffed. “In spite of how excruciating that was, thank you.”
Erik rolled to his feet. “My pleasure,” he tossed over his shoulder.
When Charles went to bed that night, he found Erik knew what he was doing and there wasn’t a mark on his leg at all.
They settled into a routine. Training, training, training, and then Charles would break off to go to the ballroom, and afterwards, Erik would help him push the kinks out of his muscles. Charles had developed another equally painful knot in his triceps that required nearly all of the strength in Erik’s hands to soften.
Erik couldn’t help but be amused at the way Charles blushed whenever he or any of the kids dropped in on him, occasionally bringing a record that they thought Charles might like to dance to. Hank seemed to have a never ending supply of romantic composers.
Erik was absently watching Charles and mentally juggling a bunch of metal weights Charles had dug up for him from some Xavier scion who’d enjoyed carpentry, when Charles lost his footing.
He fell to the floor with a cry. Erik was on his feet instantly. “What, what is it? Did you sprain something? A break?”
Charles warded him off with a hand. “I’m all right, I’m all right,” he breathed, “just feels like my kneecap is going to explode.”
Erik straightened Charles’ leg out in front of him with gentle hands, skimming along the limb to check for damage. He got to the outside of Charles’ thigh and found the problem. “The muscles here,” he said, digging his first four fingers into Charles’ thigh, “are so tense that they’re pulling your kneecap upward.”
“One day, you will have to tell me how it is that you know this,” Charles breathed.
Erik pursed his lips and carefully didn’t explain that Schmidt, or Shaw, or whoever he was now, had taught him anatomy very carefully so that he would know how to do the maximum amount of damage.
“I can try and get the tension out, but,” Erik said, “the pain is probably going to refer straight to the knee. It will undoubtedly hurt very much. You could try heating it and then we could try again later?”
Charles breathed out, white-faced. He flopped out prone on the floor, leg still in Erik’s grasp, and threw his arm over his face. “Just do it.”
Erik chuckled, tugging the leg across his lap. “Martyr.”
“Oh yes? And when you can raise your foot above your—ugh, Erik, God!”
Erik pushed down on the muscle with the weight of his body behind it, holding the knee immobile while he pushed his palm up through Charles’ quad like he was shoving a piece of furniture through sand. He let up and then did it again. The third time, Charles mewled, arm not hiding the glimmer of tears around his eyes.
“One more time, Charles,” Erik said, dropping his eyes to his hands. Watching Charles sprawled out like this, lips bitten so red as he tried not to cry out from the pain. Erik couldn’t fight against the sudden unexpected surge of arousal crawling up his spine.
He let up and looked at Charles’ face to assess how he was feeling only to find Charles already staring back at him. Erik didn’t know what he was thinking. He didn’t know if Charles knew what he was thinking. They stared at each other, mute, awkward, the air heavy around them.
Charles straightened into a sitting position, leg bending so that it was still over Erik’s lap. “Stop me,” he breathed, hand rising to cup Erik’s cheek.
“No,” Erik replied.
Charles tugged him in for a kiss and Erik groaned, pushing Charles back to the floor to lean over him. Charles was pliable and soft, but the strength that allowed him to push so high off the floor or stay locked in an impossible contortion for so long was still apparent.
“God you’re amazing,” he said, mouth hovering over Charles, before dropping in to kiss him a second time. Charles wound the unhurt leg around his waist, pulling Erik closer into him.
Charles moaned sweetly into his mouth, hips hitching up against his, their thighs so tangled together he didn’t know who belonged to what anymore. Erik shifted and their erections slotted together so perfectly he nearly stopped breathing.
Charles rolled his hips again and Erik had to tear his mouth away to curse. Charles stared up at him, eyes glassy and cheeks red, and Erik couldn’t stop looking. He pinned Charles’ hands to the floor, using the hands around his wrists as leverage to bring their hips together, harder and faster. Charles’ bare chest was red, flushed from exertion like on that first day when they’d caught him here. Somehow the thought just made Erik harder. Charles never broke his gaze, his lips parted as Erik deliberately circled his hips, pressure and friction dragging them up to a precipice. Their heavy breaths echoed in the room and Erik thought the place had probably never seen better use.
If Charles were a woman, he would’ve had him, right here on the floor, merciless and perfect.
Charles employed the leg around Erik’s waist to drag him in tighter and tighter, neck arching back as he got closer and closer. Still Erik didn’t look away. “Don’t look away from me, Charles,” he breathed.
Charles made a hiccupping noise, a soft sound caught in the back of his throat, blue, blue eyes still lasered in on him, and came. Hands closing into fists above Erik’s grip.
It was all Erik needed. He was gone, coming messily in the expensive gabardine of his pants, hair coming out of it’s perfect coif to fall into his eyes. He dropped his head to Charles’s collarbone, rising and falling with Charles’ breaths.
“Did you still feel everybody else’s mind?” Erik asked, letting go of Charles’ wrists.
When Erik moved to look at him, Charles smiled and reached up to trace a thumb over his lower lip. “No, my friend, sex is like dancing.”