Title: Two Worlds
Word Count: 5,754
Summary: From prompt: "I love porn, but I also love a good, deep philosophical debate. Please show me these two men, intellectual equals (but in different respects), engaged in intense verbal sparring. Maybe over one of their chess games... delve into subject matter that the film wouldn't, or couldn't, touch. Also, PLEASE include unresolved sexual tension so thick you can taste it. (Could eventually lead to sex... not necessary, but it's up to you.)"
Prompt: This prompt at 1stclass_kink.
The chessboard sat pristine between them, pieces weighted with the promise of potential. Erik glanced up at Charles as he patted down the pockets of his sweater, brow furrowed. A cigarette clung to his lips, hanging precariously as his mouth formed a quiet curse.
"Blast. Have you got a match?"
Erik said nothing in response, instead reaching into his pants pocket and retrieving a stainless steel lighter. Charles held out his hands in anticipation of a lazy toss across the board, and seemed surprised when Erik leaned forward, sure hands conjuring the flame and holding it beneath his waiting cigarette. One puff. Two. Charles breathed deeply and sighed in contentment, leaning back in his overstuffed chair with an unintentional air of regality. Erik smirked and placed the lighter back into his trousers.
"You're not smoking?"
"I find it impedes my lung capacity," Erik responded non-comittally, and Charles fidgeted and raised an eyebrow at him.
"Why carry that with you, then?"
"There are other uses for fire besides lighting tobacco, Charles."
A blink. A pursing of lips.
"Hmmm. Yes, of course."
Erik took a sip of his dry martini and stared at the board, debating whether to utilize the Catalan Opening or the Kings Indian attack. Charles seemed to favor the Chigorin or Gruenfeld Defense, but used neither often enough to be predictable. The Hendrick's burned his throat pleasantly as he ruminated.
"Why don't you just accelerate the atoms of a metallic object?"
"What?" Erik asked stupidly, befuddled by the other man's apparent non-sequitur.
"Heat. That's all it is; molecules in an excited state."
"I don't have that level of control," Erik chuckled, amused by Charles' simplistic grasp of his power.
"I see no reason why not. I suppose you could even ride magnetic fields like air currents-"
Erik burst into disbelieving laughter and placed his glass on a nearby coaster. Charles reddened and blustered on.
"The electro-magnetic force is the second strongest of the four fundamental forces, behind only the strong nuclear force. Its influence is everywhere. Gravity need not contain you. The gravitational force is, in fact, the most feeble by far of the four..."
Erik raised an eyebrow as Charles' voice trailed off into scowl. He then took a particularly lengthy drag of his cigarette.
"You'd have me traversing the skies like a bird," Erik grinned.
"Are you always aware of magnetic north?" Charles asked nonchalantly, playing the first move. Sicilian Defense. Unexpected.
Erik frowned and grabbed his pawn, moving it into position.
"I suppose I have better direction than most. I never thought about it, actually."
The martini beckoned, and Erik succumbed, allowing the bitter liquid to calm him. He stirred it, deliberately focusing his attention on the board and not the blue eyes pointed at him like a blade. Charles exhaled slowly, smoke billowing, framing his face in the muted light. Erik swallowed another mouthful.
"Do you remember always possessing it, even before the more powerful aspects of your mutation manifested?"
The memory of the violent event caused Erik to startle momentarily. He gave no tell, save for the tiniest wobble of his drink. He placed it back on the table and leaned forward onto his knees, hands grasped together.
"I think so, yes. I can't be sure. I never got lost, and I would wander a lot when I was young. I didn't need to look at street names. I always knew. Just assumed it was instinct."
Blue eyes softened. Charles pulled the cigarette from his mouth and removed a flake of loose tobacco stuck on his tongue. Erik quickly looked down at the board, which seemed to jog Charles' memory. He smiled apologetically and moved his piece in the predicted response. Erik countered.
"I was the same. Empathic to an alarming extent. I couldn't watch another person in emotional turmoil without reacting in kind. I felt it as if it were my own. I can tell you that I was quickly and severely discouraged from such flagrant exhibitionism," he smiled wistfully.
"Did you learn to block it?"
"Oh no. I didn't learn that control until much later. But I did grow very adept at learning to hide my discomfort. Children can be remarkably resilient."
Erik's back tensed and his fingers clenched. He breathed in slowly to calm himself, briefly closing his eyes.
"It was a traumatic event that was the catalyst for my telepathy. Broke my arm in four places, but I couldn't even feel the pain over the screaming in my head."
Charles' voice seemed dreamy, disconnected. Erik looked up, studying the other man's saddened eyes. The emotion was gone from them as quickly as it had appeared. The story continued.
"I thought I had gone completely and utterly mad. I slammed my mangled arm into the floor so that I would lose consciousness, just to escape the voices."
"How did you learn to filter it?" Erik asked tentatively, still shocked by the image of Charles connected to such violence.
"The drugs in the hospital helped," he laughed, "in fact, I'm not sure I would have managed without them. It was like a slow drip. When the faucet worked again I was able to turn it incrementally, then on and off at will. Damn, my metaphors are clumsy this evening. It's hard to explain to someone who can't..."
"I know. Those magnetic fields you spoke of earlier? I can 'see' them. Well, sense them. Like... sound vibrations in the air."
"Fascinating," Charles leaned forward, face beaming. He stubbed his cigarette in the ashtray and took a long gulp of his cognac. Only then did Erik realize that it had been previously untouched.
"Yes. And each metal creates a different pattern... what is the term you scientists use? Wave form? The most pure metals create the deepest peaks and troughs. When I'm surrounded by many different types, it's like a symphony."
Erik became suddenly aware of how maudlin he was being and picked up his glass to silence himself. Charles was enrapt. Erik shifted uncomfortably.
"Minds are much the same way, if I am to think about it," Charles ruminated, taking another sip of his drink. Erik gestured for him to continue.
"Each mind is colored by unique experiences, tempered by certain predispositions we are born with. It is fascinating how our decisions are influenced by our natures, and vice versa. So much of who were are as individuals is such a delicate dance between the two. They can't be separated."
"So evil men can be either born or made?" Erik posited wryly.
"Some men are born with mental defects, barren of any empathy or the capacity for love," Charles spoke solemnly, his eyes darkening, "I found I could not hate them because they were no more responsible for their psychopathy than I am for my ability to know their minds. Other men have their conscience stripped of them systematically, and become deadened inside as a form of defense. Others still suffer similar abuse, yet respond with bravery and resilience."
Erik felt Charles' pointed gaze and became unaccountably irritated at the scrutiny. The words had laid him bare and he wanted to lash out.
"My desire to kill Shaw is neither bravery nor resilience. If my actions protect others from harm it is a welcome side effect, but by no means my motivation. I seek revenge. Justice. Balance in the world. Nothing more noble than that, professor."
The title was spat at Charles as an insult. Other. Different. Separate. You couldn't possibly understand. Charles sat back in his chair, eyes blazing. He said nothing for a good minute, contemplating Erik silently. The grandfather clock in the corner was deafening.
"Did you know that people rarely say what they mean?" Charles finally spoke, his voice calm and measured, "surprisingly, it isn't out of any malicious intent to mislead or manipulate others. It's simply self-preservation."
Erik blinked, all anger bleeding away. He had no idea how Charles' circuitous mind worked and he could do nothing but be pulled in by it.
"People say what they think others want to hear, out of fear of being shunned. Made an outsider. They misrepresent out of a desire to be superficially accepted."
"How small," Erik sneered.
"It's perfectly logical. Humans are social creatures, evolved over millions of years into the most successful co-operative hunter on the planet, possessing an innate selfishness balanced with a need for relationship building. In fact, to be exiled from the protection of the tribe is a fate considered to be worse than death by most indigenous peoples, as it carries an added burden of social stigma."
Charles watched closely as Erik got up and silently prepared himself a second martini. Gin, vermouth, a touch of Lilet. They both knew the effects of stigma taken to the extreme. Erik didn't speak a word, but the thin line of his mouth spoke volumes. Charles continued to speak as he returned to his chair, voice soft.
"That empathy, conscience... whatever you must call it... it's an adaptation that allows us to briefly know the mind of another, and it battles constantly with our amygdala's self-preservation instinct. The human moral imperative is a complex duality, our code of ethics are reflective of these warring halves, regardless of cultural influence."
"Yes, and what about the frontal cortex, Charles? We have been gifted higher thought. Consciousness that allows us to anticipate danger. Predict the future. Act pre-emptively if we sense a threat to ourselves and our 'tribe'. Are we to ignore that adaptation?"
Erik was met by a frustrated sigh. Charles twirled his tumbler, watching the liquid catch and scatter light like a prism. He pulled a hand through his hair before moving a rook. Erik startled, having utterly forgotten the game between them. His eyes traversed the board. He knew Charles' strategy.
"How would you fight the humans, Erik? Would you kill the ones that threatened our kind overtly, or would your ire also extend to those who secretly hated us? You can't know every mind. There would always be collateral damage."
"But you can know them."
Charles startled, face torn between an expression of disbelief and disgust.
"You can't mean what you say. Would you also have us brand them with yellow stars?"
"This is not a comparable situation!" Erik bellowed, throat tightening. Charles leaned back instinctively into his chair, and Erik was immediately shamed by his outburst. He continued carefully, modulating his voice. "The Jews were utterly benign. They harbored no ill-intent against those who would annihilate them. You know how humans see us mutants, Charles. We aren't subhuman, we aren't cattle to be led to the slaughter. They hate us because they see the inevitability of their own extinction in our very existence. If they kill us, if they can control us, they think they can somehow reverse their own destiny."
"This is a post-nuclear world. I'm not even certain pre-emptive warfare is possible anymore, my friend," Charles rebutted thoughtfully, face drawn and suddenly tired, "for the majority of human history, conflict has taken place in the form of small-scale skirmishes, not genocidal warfare. It simply wastes too many resources, uses too much man-power. Industrial-agriculture set the stage for the reality we currently inhabit. Mutants may be stronger than humans on an individual level, but they still possess the atom bomb. There are too many weapons for us to control, even with our abilities. We could turn this world to glass."
"I'm not Shaw, Charles," came Erik's quiet reply. He looked up at his companion, and was shocked to see a look of pain and regret etched in his youthful features.
"I know, I know. Oh god, I wasn't inferring that. I'm sorry..."
"How did this world get from Alexander to Hitler?" Erik asked absently, gazing into his drink.
Now it was Charles' turn to be perplexed by the turn of their conversation.
"The art of war. It used to be elegant, strategic on multiple levels. Not just the battlefield," Erik sighed, "did you know that Alexander of Macedon achieved what his father was never able to because he recognized the importance of cultural pluralism?"
Charles sat back in his chair, staring at Erik in wonder.
"Yes! Co-habitation was possible, even with his enemies. This is what I've been trying to impress upon you!" he spoke, face alight with excitement.
"I'm afraid you misunderstand me. Alexander didn't see the Persians or the Indians as his enemies. He was raised to believe he was a demi-god, and that dominion of others was his divine right. What placed Alexander apart from his predecessors was the quality of his mind. Despite his own wealth and power, he recognized that it would be too difficult to control geographically distant kingdoms if he forced them to obey the laws of the Greek city state. He knew assimilation would mean his eventual downfall, so he allowed those he conquered to keep their own traditions as long as they paid him homage with tariffs, taxes and the use of their warriors. He even dressed like them in their presence. I can only imagine the disgust he must have inspired in the elder Macedonians."
Charles had never heard him speak so long or so passionately about any one subject. Erik suddenly became aware of the other man's enrapt gaze and held it. Charles took a swig of amber liquid and smiled secretly before talking.
"I fail to see a corollary with our situation, unless you're suggesting that we benignly rule the humans without subjugating them. There are moral issues inherent in that situation as well. This isn't ancient Greece. The world is a much bigger place now. The gods no longer walk among men."
"Yes they do," Erik answered firmly. Charles stilled.
"What manner of future do you envision, Erik? Do you see yourself as ruler of mankind, or do you see them extinct? On the day when only mutants inhabit this world, are you prepared to rule them as well? Will you begin to classify and rank mutants by the strength of their abilities? I can assure you from personal experience that mutants are just as capable of cruelty, selfishness and petty pursuits as any human is. I don't just know minds. I know souls. I can't condone the subjugation or eradication of any of them."
"What about the souls of your own kind? If you remain passive in this war that's exactly what you'll be condemning them to."
Charles reached down and pulled another cigarette from the cedar box sitting at his feet. Without saying a word, Erik stretched forward and lit him again. The smoke wafted between them. Neither man spoke, considering each other's faces. Charles sucked in and blew out deeply, eyes unwavering.
"Which one of us is Alexander, and which one Hephaestion?" came the unexpected question. Erik frowned in consideration.
"I am a fighter, Charles. Alexander rode in on the first line with his Companions."
"I don't doubt your warrior instincts, but that's not the question. Are you a leader of men, Erik? Can you inspire others? Your charisma is of the primal variety, but you are also a stoic. Taciturn. You are quick to anger and become impatient with perceived weakness. Would you lead through example or fear?"
"Is this what do you think of me?" Erik asked, stunned by the dissection. Even Shaw had never cut so deeply; he hadn't possessed that kind of power over him. "You see yourself as Alexander and me as your loyal toady?"
"What a disservice you do to Hephaestion. He was Alexander's dearest and most beloved friend. They were bookends of the same soul. He played both the role of confidante and counselor. He may have well been Alexander's co-regent for all they shared!" Charles countered, hands gripping his chair, "and I am certain you know the story of how Alexander reacted when Hephaestion died."
"Yes," Erik replied, voice strangled. Tension stilled the air between them, thick like smoke.
"It is a bad analogy anyway," Charles sniffed, "I have no ambition to rule others."
"Neither do I, but I will if fate asks it of me. Cultural pluralism died when Christianity conquered the Roman Empire. Dominionism is now the rule of the day," Erik harped and Charles laughed in spite of himself, smiling fondly.
"How do you see me, Erik?" came the cautious inquiry. Erik considered carefully before answering.
"I think you see yourself as a scientist and a teacher rather than a mutant. You feel no pride in it."
"Categories and labels are mechanisms used by the willfully ignorant as an excuse to hate," Charles shot back, flicking ash into a glass tray.
"Genes don't lie. They are neither ephemeral nor abstract. They are a reality," Erik countered, then immediately regretted his words. He'd unintentionally conceded territorial advantage. The gin had no taste as he swallowed. Charles tried and failed to hide his glee. Damn him.
"I've heard human scientists postulate that the potential for our power exists in a theoretical gene. They've given it a quaint little name and everything. To be honest, I think it is a gross over-simplifation that could be easily used as anti-mutant propaganda by those who are ignorant of science to make us 'alien', 'other'... 'inhuman'."
Charles took a puff on his cigarette and winced as he swallowed a mouthful of cognac. Erik listened intently, not knowing what direction their debate would take. He felt invigorated.
"There are 25,000 genes in the average human's DNA. Many have been attributed to inherited disease. Most remain a mystery to us. I have a more radical view of their hierarchy and purpose. A colleague of mine knew an American prodigy: early 20s, studying at Antioch College in Ohio of all places. He decided to study abroad at the University of Leeds simultaneously... this is how he came to the attention of my colleague. Well, this boy was majoring in neither biology nor genetics, but he postulated the most fascinating theory I have ever encountered on the subject of evolution since Darwin himself."
"What was it?" Erik asked, unable to help himself. He had discovered he was like a sponge when it came to the subject of his own origins and identity. Charles smiled knowingly and took another quick sip of his drink.
"He called it 'Punctuated Equilibrium'. It was a simplistic theory. Very rough. No real predictions, only a hypothesis. Obviously not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal."
"Obviously," Erik intoned. Charles smirked and continued.
"Anyway, he suggested that evolutionary change can occur relatively rapidly, alternating with longer periods of evolutionary stability or 'stasis'. What if... what if the mechanism that allows such rapid changes exists in all human genes, Erik?"
Charles' words startled him upright. He was no scientist, but the implications of the statement were unmistakable.
"Are you suggesting that the potential for the 'powers' could reside dormant in the entire human race?"
"It's possible. Even more important, what if there exists a master set of genes that 'switch' on a multitude of subsets, causing abrupt and sweeping changes in an organism's blueprint? What if we discovered that a master gene controls eye development? For example, if we took a fruit fly and removed that master gene the individual would be born sightless. Deformed. Now, what if we replaced that master 'eye development' gene with that of a completely different species, say... a rat? What do you think would happen then, Erik?"
Charles' excitement was contagious. Erik spoke without hesitation, voice sure.
"I assume the fruitfly wouldn't be born with rat eyes."
"YES! Exactly! The master gene would serve the same function in every vertebrate species, proving a common ancestor as a point of decent. That master gene for eye development is the same in all of us. It is the catalyst. It's the subset of genes that dictate the unique nature of a species' eye!"
"So you're saying that a master gene for mutant powers could exist in all humans, but the subset of genes it controls would remain unique to the individual?"
Charles nodded enthusiastically and continued.
"And that subset could be dormant in two 'human' parents, but come blazing to life in their offspring. The potential still resides within them. The 'genes' are there. That is why arguing genetics is a slippery slope. The line is grey. Nebulous."
"Valid point. But most people don't care about scientific details, Charles. All they'll see is 'powers or no powers'. Black and white. That's the only excuse they need to hate."
Charles raked his hands through his hair and leaned back in his chair, sighing in exasperation. Erik watched him silently, aware that his companion's irritation wasn't directed at him, but rather the inherent truth of his statement.
"I just can't help but wonder if in a few generations time, we'll all be mutants. What if this is a evolutionary inevitability? What if there's a environmental factor instigating the activation of this master gene that controls mutation? Like I said, this is a post-nuclear world..."
"Are you willing to wait a few decades to test that hypothesis? What if we are enslaved or made extinct in the mean time?"
"That's why we must educate the masses. Ignorance can't be allowed to prevail. I know the minds of both humans and mutants. At the core of our beings we are the same."
Erik felt tired. The very idea of trying to hammer sense into the masses exhausted him. Suddenly Charles' cigarette seemed tempting. He held out his hand and motioned for it. Charles hesitated only a moment before passing it between them. Their fingertips touched momentarily, but Erik still felt warmth radiating through his hand as he held the cigarette to his lips and drew in a deep, satisfying breath. Charles stared at him, only reacting when Erik moved to return the cigarette.
"What if we are two distinct species, Charles? As a scientist, you must concede that it is a real possibility."
"It is unlikely. Neanderthal and homo Sapiens were unable to produce viable offspring. We have seen no evidence that humans and mutants are incapable of inter-breeding."
The blood turned cold in Erik's veins. A chorus of Anya, Anya, Anya ran through his brain. Had his love for a human doomed his daughter's chance at survival? Had her fate been pre-determind by her own warped DNA? His heart felt like lead, but he refused to pose the question to Charles. Anya would remain his precious secret. He silently vowed never to touch another human in a carnal manner ever again. Clearing his throat, Erik spoke with a deceptive calm.
"You are so optimistic. How can you be? I can't imagine what you've seen inside the hearts of others," Erik spoke quietly, almost more to himself than Charles.
"I've seen horrific things," came the choked reply. Charles's face was obscured by the smoke as he continued to speak, "prejudice. Greed. Jealousy that could twist a mind into the act of murder. Fear and hatred of the unknown. The lust to corrupt anything good and innocent. But I've also seen the opposite."
Erik tilted his head in interest. Warmth spread through him as he recalled the hidden memory Charles had summoned from the depths of his sub-conscious. What other wonders had he been witness to?
"Love. Pure, unspoiled love. So powerful, Erik... sometimes it would make me cry just to know a whisper of it. It was utterly foreign to my experience. My mother harbored no such feelings for me. My father was long-dead, and my step-father..." Charles chuckled darkly before continuing, "but what shocked me most was the love that people keep hidden. Oh, we are so frightened of sharing the depths of our feelings for fear of rejection or non-reciprocation. We would rather lock our love inside ourselves and nurse it quietly. So much lost opportunity."
Charles' eyes were wet with emotion. Without thinking, Erik leaned forward and grasped his hand tightly.
"Thank you," he whispered before letting go.
"My mother. If I had a chance to go back to that moment, I would tell her how much I love her."
The smile Erik received in return was blinding.
"She knew. She knew. No, the love I'm speaking of is generally of a different sort. Forbidden love. We care so much what others think of us, what society expects. Like I said earlier, we fear rejection above all else."
"Give me an example," Erik found himself asking against all better judgment.
Charles seemed to withdraw into himself, eyes dark and thoughtful. He took a final puff and pressed his cigarette next to the previously discarded butt.
"It seems the the majority of the population is lying. If appearances were to be believed we exist in a world where men are only drawn to women and vice versa. I can assure you that isn't the case. Not by a long shot."
Erik's eyes grew large as he sat upright. Charles barreled onwards expelling the words as if they were a confession.
"There are so many. Men who have fallen in love with other men, women with women, but unable to speak of it, terrified of the consequences. Terrified that they're mentally ill, diseased... different. Society tells them that their minds are perverted. They're not, Erik. The love they feel is just as pure and powerful as that shared between a man and a woman. There was one young man, I will never forget him as long as I live. The love he felt for his friend was so powerful that I couldn't breathe when I first felt it. He yearned deep in his soul for his touch, but he denied himself a mere hug for fear he would betray himself. He would have given his life for him."
The martini sat warm and untouched in Erik's grasp. He found that all power of speech had escaped him. Charles looked down at his hands and continued.
"The world as it exists and what goes on in our minds are two very separate realities. I wish... I wish we could reconcile them. We are poisoned by our deception. Both of others and ourselves."
The weight Erik felt on his chest was enough to suffocate him. He cleared his throat and drank the last of his martini.
"How did you break your arm, Charles?"
"What?" came the response, lost and bewildered.
"Was it an accident?" Erik coaxed gently, knowing the answer before it came.
"No. No. It was him. I was used to it by then. He liked to use his belt. Or something from the kitchen. He never used a knife, though. I was lucky."
Erik's heart hammered against his rib cage and he tasted bile. It seemed he and Charles had more in common than he had suspected.
"Kurt. My step-father. It was nothing, though. Do you know how many boys are beaten by their fathers every day?"
"My father never laid a hand on me."
No. A mutant did. The words hung unspoken in the air between them. The potential for evil resided in both mutant and man alike. Erik knew this, but still the fear of human ignorance and hatred seeped into his core. Human ignorance and hatred had caused Charles to be beaten so brutally he'd been placed in the hospital. Erik shivered with unfocused anger.
"You have no idea how alike we are."
Charles' voice shattered his contemplation.
"Oh?" Erik challenged.
"We both control the electro-magnetic force. The human brain communicates with electrical impulses. That's what I am able to sense. Each mind has its own unique pattern, which I can observe, understand and control. You understand the electro-magnetic language of the inanimate. We are two sides of the same coin."
The metaphor caught Erik unaware. His stomach felt as heavy as the coin in his pocket and his mouth as dry as paper.
"What?" Charles asked, confused.
"I ask Raven to be proud of her mutation, yet I ask you to reign yours in. You can't help your nature any more than I can help mine, but the truth is that the very defininition of your ability presents a moral conundrum. Mental privacy is a touchstone of individual freedom."
"I know," Charles gulped, looking away, "that's why I've learned to block other minds. It's not just self-preservation. True, if I didn't filter the input would be blinding... but I know the potential that exists inside me, Erik. It's terrifying."
"In what manner?" Erik felt light-headed at Charles' admission, yet he needed to know more.
"You and the others, like Raven, control the physical realm. Her mutation is spectacular, but inefficient. She is able to alter herself at the cellular level to adopt any form she can envision. Do you know how much she has to eat to maintain her human form? Or to change at will? The energy expenditure is insane. If she doesn't consume at least 4000 calories a day she becomes lethargic. Or Alex for that matter... the energy he harnesses doesn't come from his body. If it did, each plasma blast would sap him of the energy he needs to live. His body actually works on a sub-atomic level to harness the unrealized energetic potential of atoms in the air around him. However, I am capable of reproducing the same effect with my mind, Erik. I can make people believe I am any form I wish them to see; I need not change my cellular structure. I can make people believe that they are under siege by blasts of energy; I need not actually shoot at them. I can change reality. I can control the very nature of how people perceive the world around them."
Erik sat and stared at Charles, dumbfounded. The brain was the conduit to reality. The implications of Charles' power wasn't lost on him. It was axis-shifting.
"You could be the most powerful mutant in existence."
With shaking hands, Charles picked up his tumbler and took a sip of his cognac. Erik's mind reeled at the surreality of the situation. He was about to speak when Charles' voice interrupted the silence.
"I hope you wouldn't blame me any more than you would a person who is left-handed or a person who is attracted to his or her own gender."
"You are the next stage in evolution, Charles. Homosexuality is at odds with survival, even if it is genetically pre-determined," Erik spoke with vehemence, eyes wild, as if he needed to be disproven.
"That's an ignorant argument. Homosexuals are perfectly capable of breeding, and do so. Often. For all we know the master gene that determines homosexuality or bisexuality is inherited matrilineally. What if it is a bi-product of female fecundity? Perhaps a hyper-attraction to males - in itself a trait that could be advantageous - is implanted in a male fetus during a critical moment of development. Evolution is blind, my friend. Nature tests all permutations and probabilities without prejudice. Like I said earlier, we are socially advanced carnivores. In a population of mammals that hunt co-operatively, male bonding would facilitate a more effective hunting strategy. That adaptation, like any other, can exist in the extreme. The bonding can become sexual, or conversely, absent to the point of hostility. It's not surprising that we see a wide range of sexual proclivities exists within the populations of social animals, including homo Sapiens."
Charles' voice became more and more impassioned as he argued, his blue eyes alight with conviction. Erik thought he'd never seen anything more beautiful in his life. All higher thought escaped him as he surged forward and silenced Charles with his lips, their abandoned chess game toppling onto the floor. Erik clung to him, fingers kneeding into the arms of his damned cardigan.
"I know," Erik whispered into his mouth, tasting the tobacco and cognac, "I would be a hypocrite to condemn one and exult the other. I needed to hear you say those words."
"Oh god. I thought... but I wasn't sure..."
Charles' mouth pressed forward against his, their lips teasing, feather-light. Then the kiss was choking, desperate. Erik cupped Charles' head to hold him steady as he drank of him, tongue wet and sweet and pliant. He stroked gently along Charles' flank, coaxing him down to the carpet, rough and worn beneath them. Charles stretched on his back, face flushed and joyous as he held Erik's hungry gaze.
"Have you ever...?" Erik gasped out, instantly regretting the inanity of his question.
"Not as much as with women. The secrecy and self-loathing can be suffocating. Often it's not worth it," Charles answered candidly, his voice colored with regret.
Erik responded by burying his face in Charles neck and inhaling deeply. He smelled of smoke and sweat and a distinct musk that Erik would always remember as 'Charles'.
Charles wasn't shy or nervous like Magda had been in their first encounter. His hands were distinctly male; blunt and strong. A laborer's hands. So incongruous for an intellectual. He laughed when Erik held their palms together, a good inch difference between them. He said he loved Erik's "long, elegant" fingers and kissed them individually, before grasping his hand and moving it down to stroke his erection. It was thick and strong as well, curving gently in a way that made Erik's heart pound in his chest. Charles countered him enthusiastically at every turn with equal fervor, play-for-play. His voice bubbled with laughter and soft sighs as he whispered encouraging words in Erik's ear. He worshipped Erik's penis with the tight grip of his hands and the confident heat of his mouth. He apologized when his pleasure bled outwards, touching the the borders of Erik's mind, and all Erik could do was moan and forgive him the innocent trespass. He laced their fingers together tightly and yelled his climax into Erik's sweat-slick shoulder, bringing Erik with him with a final, coarse grunt.
The carpet prickled at Erik's back but he couldn't bring himself to move. Charles absently drew patterns on his chest with a fingertip before placing a tender kiss against his collar bone.
"Sometimes love isn't enough," Charles' voice was so quiet Erik had to strain to catch his words.
"I don't understand," Erik whispered, staring down into familiar blue eyes now lined with sadness, "there is no pretense between us. This was what you wished for. No deception. Only truth."
"Oh my love, can't you see? If the world asks it of us, we would abandon this for the sake of our convictions. We will always put the needs of others above our own. This quality is why I am in love with you, Erik. I would have you no other way."
Charles' words shot into his heart with their truth and accuracy. The room felt small, his skin clammy and cold. He pulled Charles against him so tightly that their breathing hitched. Erik's throat constricted. He could barely force the words out.
"Then let's hope it never comes to that."
He felt the nod against his chest. Charles curled against him, twining their legs together. The grandfather clock chimed twice in the shadows. Erik stared up at the ceiling long after Charles fell asleep.