A/N: This is a long one, guys. It's the third and final chapter in my little series thingy (predecessed by A Ring For Your Finger and A Watch for Your Time, which you may need to read in order to fully comprehend this one). This is rated M, but there is nothing explicit.

Warnings: sex, angst, romance, CHARLES/ERIK (you know it's big time, we've got all caps, people), Charles/Hank friendship, extremely bittersweet ending, consumption of alcohol, some language. Set in January of 1965, about two years and three months after the end of First Class.

Disclaimer: If I owned X-Men, I would not be listening to sad music and writing fanfics about it. Lol. P.S., I think I've found a song for E/C - at least, it helps me write it. "Nights in White Satin" by the Moody Blues. It's about unrequited love, but what is unrequited love but a weird form of forbidden love?

In the two years, two months, and three weeks since he had become paralyzed from the waist down, Charles Xavier's life had normalized a bit. An elevator had long been added to the mansion, the doors had all been made wider, and in places such as the library and his study where there were high shelves, a sort of hand on a retractable stick – designed by none other than the always-helpful Hank McCoy – was always around for grabbing books and other such objects. (The only problem with this handy tool was that he frequently could not see where he was aiming it, and more than once a mountain of heavy books had tipped off the shelf and fallen onto him.)

Charles himself was used to it by now (well, he had adjusted as much as he suspected he ever would), and he made the best of it. He no longer grew frustrated when eight-hundred-page-textbooks dropped onto his head from above (well, he didn't show his frustration – although he tended to be rather out of it for a while afterward, possibly due to mild blunt force trauma) and while he rarely asked for help, he was no longer ashamed to do so when he needed it. Being unable to run and walk and stand was a humbling experience – he had grown calmer, wiser, and much more adept at hiding his emotions and controlling the words that came out of his mouth. He was the benevolent father figure to eight students, two young helpers (he called them his helpers because they did the shopping and ran errands, but really they were good friends and frequently his assistants), and a young scientist (who had become his closest friend in the past two years), and he wasn't even old enough to have actually fathered any of them. In fact, he'd only been thirty years old for twenty-or-so hours, as it was now mid-evening on January 5th, 1965.

Charles jerked himself out of his reverie, shaking his head and clearing his throat, breaking the silence in the library. He'd been staring blandly out the window at the grounds – the moon was almost but not quite full, so it gave the half-hearted snow on the grass an odd, glowing quality against the dark ground. It had been fairly warm this winter, which was why there wasn't the usual coat of thick, pure-white snow, but it was still chilly enough that the cold seeped through the window he was seated by.

He looked at the book in his lap –Scientific Research on Human Genetics and Genetic Mutations – and shook his head. On any other day he might be able to suffer through it, or maybe even get interested in it (despite the fact that most of the material in this particular tome had either become outdated or had been disproved, whether by Charles himself or various other renowned scientists across the globe), but today, he found it dull, tedious, and almost scream-inducing. Were he a child, he probably would have thrown it against the wall and just gone to bed, but since he was a thirty-year-old man now, he forced himself to continue.

This isn't so bad, he told himself. This is an average evening for me. Except he generally didn't drink half a bottle of good scotch on an average night; he rarely drank at all. Actually, he couldn't recall the last time he'd had a drink. (Was it two years ago, at that last chess game with – no. I am not thinking about him.)

The scotch had made him feel as though his head was too light for his body, and he finally gave up and slammed the book shut, going back to staring out the window. I wonder why he didn't – stop! Stop thinking of him . . . But in the letter last year, he mentioned 'next year' – but it doesn't matter because he hasn't sent me anything and that's why I need to stop thinking of him right now . . .

He was thinking, of course, of Erik Lehnsherr. The past two years on his birthday, Erik had sent him presents – first an engraved silver ring, then a silver pocket-watch. He didn't know what he'd been expecting – perhaps a silver wheelchair this time around? How ridiculous . . .

. . . But Charles could not shake the hope that lingered in his chest, the hope that perhaps Erik would send him something. He'd specifically sent Sean to go get the mail that morning, even though the boy hadn't been planning to go until tomorrow. But Sean had come back with no familiar heavy package – indeed, not even a letter from Erik. And Charles highly doubted Erik would send a belated present – if he didn't receive anything today, he would most likely not get anything from the metal-shaper at all. Not that it was the gift that mattered, although they were lovely, but Erik . . .

In his slightly inebriated state, Charles found it very easy to admit to himself that he was still (as Alex would say) "hung up" on Erik. In the year that had passed since his last birthday (when he and Alex had had a very strong conversation about the fact that Charles was swallowing down every word Erik wrote like it was candy, when in reality the words could be sweets laced with undetectable poison), he had tried to clear his mind of all romantic entanglements, attempted valiantly to devote himself to the education of his young students, and even given a bit of focus to scholarly projects (researching, writing essays for various journals and magazines, and the like). But Erik was never too far from his mind, and no matter how hard he focused, how much he devoted himself to his students, Charles couldn't shake him.

This is ridiculous, he thought to himself. I've got to find more distractions – bigger projects, more research – I'll do even more with the children, teach them things they've never dreamed of knowing. He took a final sip of scotch, then shook his head to clear it (with no success).

I'll put this back in my study, he told himself, and then I'll go and chat with Hank. He's still awake, of course – in the lab.

He set the book down on the table in the library for another time – none of his students would bother it, as none of them had the slightest interest in any genetics but their own – and picked up the bottle of scotch and his glass, setting them both between his knees and then wheeling himself around and out of the library, turning the lamp out as he left. He took the elevator up a floor, rolled himself to his study, and stowed the liquor at the back of a cabinet behind some files (having hidden booze made him feel like a sneaky teenager, but it was better to have it where no one would find it and where it couldn't tempt him). He then made his way back downstairs and down to Hank's laboratory, scanning the house with his telepathy – everyone was in their rooms except for Sean and Alex, who were in the kitchen filching food.

Not the ice cream, he thought to both of them from up the hallway as they made themselves sundaes with the vanilla ice cream they had purchased for Charles's birthday. You've already had it today. Have some carrots or something if you're hungry.

Shit, you scared me, Alex thought back.

But the ice cream is so gooooood . . . Sean responded sadly.

Fine, have it, he relented, and smirked to himself when he heard them exiting the kitchen behind him and scampering back upstairs with their treats. He wheeled down to the lab and knocked lightly.

Hank growled back, "Sean, if that's you and Alex out there again, I swear I'll claw more than your face this time –,"

"No, Hank, it's Charles," he said, chuckling. The door swung open almost immediately, revealing Hank's apologetic, furry face.

"Sorry, Professor . . . they've been bugging me all night . . . Lucky I didn't do more than scratch them, the idiots . . ."

Charles laughed. "It's alright. And don't worry, they're both upstairs now, eating ice cream and annoying the students."

"Better them than me," Hank said, stepping aside to grant Charles entry. "Do you want to see what I'm working on?"

"Sure," Charles said, permitting Hank to roll him over to one of the many lab tables. Papers were scattered everywhere, covered with Hank's handwriting (its neatness ranged from big, even letters to a hasty, cramped scrawl). Charts had been laboriously graphed out on scraps of lined paper, and formulas were written everywhere. Charles tried to immerse himself fully into what Hank was saying, but he couldn't concentrate – it wasn't that he didn't understand, because he mostly did, but something just didn't feel . . . right. The students were all perfectly fine, Sean and Alex had gone back to their room, and Hank was right there with him – but something was amiss . . . it was the sensation he got before something major was about to happen, an intuition that told him to be prepared.

"Professor," Hank said, bending to look Charles straight in the face. "Are you alright? How much have you had to drink?"

"Drink?" Charles said distantly. "I haven't been drinking."

"Charles, you still have the cup in your lap. By the smell of it, it's scotch. Good stuff, too."

Charles glanced down, and indeed, he had forgotten to leave the glass in his study. "Oh. Not a lot, just a little nightcap – I am thirty now, after all. It's a milestone."

Hank smiled. "You're still young, Professor."

Charles felt just a little rankled – why was everyone so obsessed with him feeling old? Was it the chair, or just his attitude? "I know I am, Hank. Give me thirty more years before you call me old."

Hank's smile fell. "I didn't mean it like that – I just thought – . . ."

Charles held up a hand to halt him. "It's alright, I'm sorry for being short with you. I'm just tired, and maybe I've had a little bit more to drink than I thought."

Hank nodded. "I understand –,"

Just then, Charles felt it. A mind suddenly appeared in his range, within the grounds – a mind he vaguely recognized and swooped in on like a sea gull on a dying fish.

A teleport – Azazel was his name – oh, Christ. There was someone with him, but he couldn't read them – and there were only two people in the world whose thoughts he couldn't read – but before Charles could get a firm hold on him, Azazel was gone, vanishing to somewhere outside his mind's reach.

Charles's hand was on his temple in seconds, searching far and wide, but there were no other unfamiliar beings on the property, and the other mind was gone now that he was not looking through Azazel's brain – he could not locate it at all.

"Charles? Charles, what's wrong?" Hank said, concerned, but Charles did not respond – because the mind was suddenly there, right there, and he practically shoved himself in, sensing immediately whose it was.

He could see through the other mutant's eyes, and he saw the mansion up above, the dark ground covered with patchy snow, he could see the stars in the sky, and he heard it's cold – Charles, can you hear me – and he knew.

Erik, he thought, at the same time he said aloud, stunned, "He's right outside. Bloody hell."

"What? Who's outside?" Hank said, eyes widening.

Erik, you're here – why are you here?

I came to bring your gift.

Oh my God, Erik. You scared the hell out of me – Erik . . .

Are you going to come outside to get your present, or invite me in so I can bring it to you?

Charles made a quick decision – Erik could not come inside, Hank would take one look at him and rip him to shreds, if Alex didn't blast him first. I will come to you.

Hank reached out with two big, clawed hands and shook Charles lightly (well, lightly to him was enough to make Charles's head snap back and forth like a bobble-head doll's). "Charles? What's going on? Who's outside? Do I need to wake –,"

"No," Charles interrupted quickly but calmly. "Don't wake anyone. I have to go."

Hank looked worried and confused. "Go where? You can't go outside if someone dangerous is out there, and it's freezing – Charles, is someone bad out there? You're pale as a ghost."

Charles began to wheel himself around and said shortly, "Curse of English skin, I'm always pale. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm sorry, I have to go. Maybe tomorrow we can –,"

"Charles, wait," Hank called. "I can't let you go out there alone."

Charles looked over his shoulder. "I appreciate the concern, but –," Erik, I'm coming, Erik, " – it's unnecessary."

Hank took a few giant steps after Charles and moved to grab the chair's handles, and Charles reacted instinctively, fingers to his temple. Stop, he told Hank, and the furry mutant behind him froze.

You will let me leave, and if I'm not back in the morning, then you will search for me. Understood?

Yes, Hank thought back, obediently but reluctantly.

Charles released his mind. Sorry, my friend, he projected apologetically. I'll explain at a later time.

Wheeling himself along at the quickest pace he could manage, Charles reached the elevator in a few short seconds, pressing the button with a jerky motion. Just let me get a coat –

I'll wait, Erik responded. I've waited for a whole year now, ten minutes in the cold means little to me. I'm just in the trees – I won't come out until I see that you are alone.

Charles wanted to tell the older man that his paranoia was ridiculous, and that he had no intention of bringing out some sort of mutant brigade to capture or kill Erik, but he knew Erik would not believe him, and so he didn't bother. The elevator lifted him slowly up to the second floor, and Charles rolled himself to his room, nudging the door open with an outstretched arm. He moved about as quickly and quietly as he could, putting on gloves and a heavy coat with a collar in case of wind.

Bring a blanket or something, Charles, Erik thought. It's cold, and I'd like something to wrap around myself in case this takes a while.

Charles briefly searched Erik's mind at that last thought, wondering what Erik could be up to – but he detected no violent ulterior motives. Erik's thoughts were guarded, as he knew that Charles could hear all of them, but he didn't appear to be trying to lie.

He grabbed the thick extra blanket off his bed, folding it hastily and setting it in his lap. I'm coming. Give me a few minutes – I may not be able to go far in the snow.

It's not thick, Erik responded, but Charles knew he would wait.

The journey downstairs and outside seemed to take twice as long as it normally did – Charles had never before truly realized just how big the house was – and he was silent the entire way, except for the occasional mental comment to Erik (downstairs now – passing the kitchen – hope I can get down the ramp by myself). Mostly he just listened to the other man's thoughts, struggling to believe that he was truly outside. Charles wondered vaguely if he might be having some sort of drunken fantasy, or if he'd fallen out of his wheelchair at some point and hit his head, and was now suffering a hallucination, but he kept going anyways, his arms actually aching as a result of his speed.

He made it outside, already wishing he'd brought a flashlight or something, but the light from the moon and its reflection on the snow made it possible to see a bit better after his eyes adjusted.

And now, the ramp, Charles thought, both to himself and to Erik. He positioned himself to wheel down it, awkwardly attempting to steer with one hand while holding his other out in case he rolled down too fast and needed to grab the railing. It started out okay, but then the wheels skidded on the icy concrete ramp, and all he was able to think was fuck, going to slide before he lost control.

He threw his arms out and grabbed both railings, gripping tightly as the chair rolled quickly, saving himself from being thrown into a heap at the bottom by sheer strength and force of will.

Charles, are you alright?, came Erik's worried query.

I'm fine, he replied. I didn't fall out. Alright, I'm going to try and make my way to you. Where are you?

Near the tree we played chess under that one afternoon. I'll come out when I see you.

Charles sighed and then began to wheel himself again, having to work harder than normal thanks to the snow. His arms were already starting to ache, as he wasn't used to having to move this fast in these conditions, but at least underneath his coat he was toasty from exertion (his exposed face and ears, however, were already a different story).

He headed for the dark line of trees ahead, sliding lightly into Erik's mind, just deep enough to see what the other saw. Erik was staring at the mansion and the snow, but then he spotted the dark, oddly-shaped form that was Charles, working his way slowly around the slight hill the house was on as opposed to straight down it.

Charles felt himself grinning a little stupidly at the elated sensation Erik felt, and he pulled his mind out, not wanting to spoil the first time they met again by muddling in the other man's head.

Charles finally reached the base of the hill, wondering how far he would have to go before Erik would reveal himself, when suddenly his chair was locked in place, stopped by the metal it was crafted from. And then a dark form stepped from the trees.

Charles was grinning again, but he couldn't control it this time. He automatically moved to wheel himself closer, but the rubber wheels only spun uselessly over and over – Erik was holding him in place.

Erik tramped up to him slowly, boots making light crunching noises over the snow. "Charles," he said, the lightest trace of a smile playing over his lips.

"Erik," Charles said, laughter in his voice. "You look – . . . well. You look well." Cold and a bit silly was what he had wanted to say (was Erik really wearing a cape? And why was he holding the helmet like that – did he expect Charles to leap up, nick it, and start running?), but he didn't want to offend his friend, not yet, at least.

"As do you," Erik replied, his gaze lingering on the chair and his smile slipping.

Charles handed him the blanket, watched as Erik wrapped it around himself like a shawl, and said, "Let's not think about that, alright? I'd prefer it if you treated me as normally as possible."

Erik's eyes widened. "I would never treat you differently because you're in a wheelchair, Charles."

Because I'm still a mutant, Charles thought. If I had become mentally crippled instead of physically crippled, he would treat me differently. "I know you wouldn't, my friend. Where's Raven?"

Erik looked away. "Not here, obviously."

"Ob-vi-ous-ly," Charles said, enunciating every syllable. "Where is my sister, Erik?"

Erik paused, then informed him, "She wanted to come – but I told her it was unwise."

Charles read his mind, then, trying to detect a lie – but Erik was telling the truth, Raven was indeed fine. "Pity. I'd hoped I might see her."

"I can have Azazel bring her –,"

"No," Charles said. "Not yet. I want to speak to you, alone, first."

Erik nodded. "I thought as much," he said, with a look up at the house. "Could we go inside? It's rather cold out here."

"I'm afraid that's not a good idea – Sean, Alex, and Hank won't take too kindly to you being in the house."

"They still live with you?" Erik asked curiously, raising an eyebrow.

"Sean likes it with us too much to leave, Alex has nowhere to go, and Hank can't go out in public at all," Charles reminded him. "So yes, they still live with me. They help out with my students, and Hank teaches with me. And if you're feeling chilled, we can go to the gardener's supply shed over there – it'll be a bit warmer and no one's likely to come along and disturb us."

"Alright," Erik said, and with a wave of his hand, lifted Charles's chair in the air as though it were nothing.

Instinctively fearful, Charles said, "Erik –,"

I won't drop you, Erik thought as he walked towards the small building near the woods that housed various unused tools (Charles didn't employ a gardener, preferring to give Sean and Alex something to do outdoors every so often to keep them out of everyone else's hair), with Charles's wheelchair floating alongside him. You're safe with me.

Hopefully, Charles thought, but he chose not to project that to Erik. As they came up to the small, dark building, Charles said, "It may be –,"

Something clicked, and the doorknob turned itself, swinging open all alone. " . . . Locked," he finished.

"Rusty," Erik commented, eying the doorknob and hinges as he levitated Charles into the dark room. He stepped in after Charles, and with a swish of his hand simultaneously lowered the wheelchair gently to the ground, closed the door, and flipped the light-switch, causing the ancient but functional ceiling lights to flick on. In the dim light of the shed (well, it was too nice to be called a shed – it was built of brick and about twenty by twenty feet in size, with dusty equipment stacked neatly along the walls), Charles looked up at Erik, before reaching out to touch his arm lightly.

Erik looked down at Charles's hand on his arm, then at Charles's face.

"It really is good to see you, Erik," Charles said sincerely. I've missed you more than you know, he broadcasted, suddenly foolishly brave although he was long sober from the cold.

Erik suddenly knelt in front of Charles, resting his hands on Charles's unfeeling knees. He looked almost like some sort of devout servant, looking up in prayer to his master, but the look in his eyes was clouded, not quite worshipful. Charles had the strongest urge to reach out and touch Erik's face, but Erik beat him to it, reaching up to touch Charles's cheek before running his fingers through Charles's neat brown hair.

"Your hair is thinning," Erik commented, voice soft and deep. "It'll be gone before you're thirty-five."

"And your hair is already graying, old chap," Charles retorted lightly.

"So is yours."

"You have a point."

Erik smirked. "It doesn't bother me, though. I could still grip it in my hands if I were to kiss you."

"And are you going to kiss me?" Charles asked, looking Erik dead in the eye.

"Well, I thought you wanted to –,"

Charles shook his head. "Talking can wait," he said, before he dipped his head and pressed his lips to Erik's.

Erik was a little startled at first, but he returned the kiss in seconds, tightening his grip on Charles's hair and pressing their mouths together harder, trying instinctively to dominate Charles (but Charles was not a woman, he would not be passive and sweet under Erik). Charles put his hands on Erik's shoulders, pulling him as close as he could get him in this awkward position.

The kiss grew very heated very fast, as though they were teenagers and not fully grown men. Charles barely registered any motion until the kiss broke and he found himself on the floor, awkwardly halfway on the floor and halfway in Erik's lap. Erik wasted no precious time – he sucked in a gulp of oxygen and kissed Charles again, pressing him down to the cold floor.

Charles clung to him unthinkingly, feeling as though his legs were two cumbersome weights in his way, but he couldn't really bring himself to give a damn about it, not when Erik was kissing him like that, tugging his hair and then stroking it almost-but-not-quite lovingly.

Things seemed to be moving both incredibly slowly and extraordinarily quickly at the same time – Charles felt as though each kiss lasted only seconds (such wonderful seconds, oh, Christ), but it felt like much too long before Erik had thrown the blanket over them for added warmth and shed his cape and shirt.

Erik unbuttoned Charles's shirt with fingers that were quick but surprisingly shaky, and Charles pressed into his mind lightly, embarrassed and yet proud of the way he looked through Erik's eyes – flushed cheeks, lips swollen with kisses, shirt unbuttoned, all mussed brown hair and deep blue eyes and creamy skin in the dim room. Charles, God, I'd forgotten how you looked like this – your arms, so muscled, Christ – Charles . . .

Charles tossed his shirt aside uncaringly, and kissed Erik again, running his hand lightly down Erik's back. "Hurry up," he murmured against Erik's mouth. He tugged at Erik's belt when the other man did not move.

"But," Erik said, "you won't . . ."

"Feel anything?" Charles cut him off. "Well, I could – if you let me into your head, as deep as I could go, I can feel everything you do."

Erik's hesitation is palpable, and Charles skimmed his fingers from Erik's waistband to his flat stomach. "I won't snoop around, or do anything to hurt you." He paused, then said, "Please, Erik. I want this."

That settled it. "Okay," Erik said. "Okay. Go in my head."

Charles did not even have to touch his temple – he slipped deep into Erik's mind the way a diver would slide into water, with complete ease, feeling the waters of Erik's inner psyche open around him like an ocean. He went as far as he thought he could go and then further, until he had the odd sensation of dual existence – he was part of Erik, and could feel Erik's breathing almost as if it was his own, but at the same time, he was dimly aware of his own body and the breaths it was taking in.

Erik gasped. I can feel you, Charles. I feel you in my head.

I'm sorry . . .

No. It's good.

It took some experimentation, but Charles found out quickly that he could direct his own body from this deep inside Erik's mind, he only had to make sure he didn't accidentally control Erik as well. He touched every inch of Erik, feeling the touches as though Erik had put his hands on Charles himself. It was so surreal when he grabbed Erik's waist and felt, in his mind, the sensation of being touched there as well, that he began to laugh and moan at the same time, squeezing until Erik gasped in pain.

They were together for every second of it, Charles's mind weaving so smoothly through Erik's that it was almost as if they were one being and yet two beings, somehow together but still separate – it was both amazing and sad at the same time. But Charles did not allow himself to feel sad for longer than a second, not when he could feel everything, everywhere, and it was so good.

When Erik reached his peak, Charles was there with him, and dimly under the waves of pleasure rolling through both of their minds he heard his own voice crying out, somewhere, far away, a gasp of Erik's name. All Erik thought in response was yes Charles so good I missed you yes, but Charles just kept saying Erik's name over and over, not sure if it was only in their minds or aloud and not caring either way.

After it was all done, Charles reluctantly slid back from Erik's mind, his emotions drained and his body weak. When he came to himself, he found that he was lying on his back on the floor, with Erik above him. Erik's body was heavy, but Charles wasn't upset about that – what upset him was the fact that after being in Erik's mind, feeling sensations of touches below his waist – he had almost expected to come back and find that he was healed, his legs fully functional and his spine undamaged.

"Are you alright?" Erik asked, lifting his face and looking at Charles.

"More than alright," Charles responded, smiling a bit weakly. Erik lowered his head back down to rest on Charles's shoulder, and Charles allowed Erik's tired flow of thoughts to drop him into a soft doze.

When he roused out of his light sleep, he found Erik kissing his chest, lips warm and gentle against his flesh.

. . . twenty-one . . . twenty-two . . . twenty-three . . .

Charles smiled. "You are a true marshmallow on the inside, Erik. No one would ever believe it, but you are."

Don't interrupt me while I'm counting, please, Charles. Twenty-four, twenty-five . . . He had moved up to Charles's shoulders now, and then up to his neck. Twenty-six, twenty-seven. Then his jaw – the sensation of a warm breath against his earlobe was enough to make Charles feel wonderfully warm underneath Erik and the blanket – twenty-eight – his cheek – twenty-nine – and finally his lips.

Thirty, they both thought at the same time, and Charles smiled against Erik's mouth.

"A kiss," Erik said, pulling back after a beautiful, glorious moment. "That's your present this year. Happy birthday."

Still smiling, and faintly amused by Erik's soft tone paired with his blunt words, Charles murmured back, "Thank you."

Erik dropped his head again, letting it rest on Charles's shoulder. You're welcome.

Charles was still smiling – he couldn't seem to stop, but it was alright for now. So what happened to the first twenty? Did I sleep through them?

Yes. The first fifteen were from your feet to your hips. The next five were on your stomach and arms – but you were tired so I tried not to wake you.

How considerate, thank you very much, Charles thought, wishing fervently that he'd been awake to see Erik kissing a pathway up his legs.

Do we really need to talk now? Erik asked. I think you know everything I want to say.

Charles peeked into his mind, and the smile on his face slipped. I think I do.

For Erik was thinking hard – thinking hard of how this would be his last time ever feeling Charles, or kissing him, or touching him. This would be the last time they were ever together as lovers, and probably the last time as friends.

Charles touched Erik's face then, cradling the other man's head to his chest the way he would hold someone who was hurting or crying – but Erik was not crying, he was much too strong to weep. Charles, however, was not above it, and he strongly hoped he could keep it together – for both of their sakes.

You know why this has to be the end, don't you, Charles.

No, Charles responded honestly. Trying for light humor and ending up with only sadness, he continues, But you're welcome to explain.

It's been two years, Charles. I've been holding back over these years, for you – waiting for you to change your mind and come and join me. But you won't, will you?

Charles had never experienced the exact sensation of his heart being broken, but now it felt as though the thing pulsing in his chest was being ripped in half. You know I can't, he responded brokenly.

I know, Erik thought back, and underneath the other mutant's mind was swirling with dashed hopes and crushed wants (Charles please why can't you see with you by my side we could do anything everything Charles you know it's true . . .)

So I need to move on, Erik told him once he'd gained control over his mind. The humans are not waiting, Charles, and I can't afford to hold off for you. I have to have my full attention on what I want – what I need. Erik's brain was positively swirling with emotion, and it was sucking Charles down into the spiral, dragging him along for the terrible ride. (I need you but I need this too Charles I know you can understand that . . .)

I understand perfectly, Charles responded, the pain in his chest only growing stronger. Erik lifted his head then, and at the same moment they both leaned in for a quick, desperate kiss that gradually softened, turned slow and deep and so wonderful Charles knew he would die at the end of it.

But he did not die, and instead they made love again, and this time it was Erik crying out, his voice just a quiet grunt of, "Charles . . .", as he looked almost unseeingly into Charles's eyes. Inside his mind, despite the wondrous pleasure pouring from Erik, Charles soothed him, giving him whispered thoughts of, it's alright. I am still here.

You are not alone, Erik.

I know, Erik thought back when it had ended again and they were both breathing quickly and raspily. I am not alone . . . now. But when I don't have you, I think I will be alone.

You have Raven, Charles told him, even though his poor ruined heart throbbed with jealousy at the thought. She cares for you, she always has.

I know, Erik told him, but he didn't respond with anything more on the subject. I must go now, Charles. It's going to get light soon.

Let me walk with you to the trees. They both understood the symbolism of that word – 'walk'. Charles could not stand on his own two feet anymore, but he would go with Erik to the trees, as lovers, as friends – he would be fully equal with Erik, mind and body, for that short journey. And at its close, everything would be changed forever.

So Erik helped Charles into his clothes and into his chair, and in turn, Charles helped Erik into his own clothes, even going so far as to button his pants for him. It wasn't so much a gesture of love as it was an excuse to touch Erik as much as possible before he was gone, but Charles supposed it could go either way.

Erik picked up the blanket and draped it over Charles, then fastened his cape as he eyed the spot on the floor where they had just been. Don't ever have this building redone.

I won't, Charles vowed, although he knew that one day the shed would fall into such a state of disrepair that he would have to have it repaired. Shall we go, then?

Yes, Erik replied, his tone empty. He cut off the lights and opened the door with a twitch of his fingers and turned to raise Charles into the air, but Charles stopped him.

Let me go by myself, Charles requested. I don't want your last sight of me to be of me being carried.

Alright, Erik agreed, and lowered Charles to the ground. With deliberate slowness, the men left the shed, Erik closing and locking the door behind them as they went. They made their way down to the trees, following Erik's footprints from earlier in the evening (actually, it was yesterday now – Charles was now one day past thirty years old). Charles was lost in thought, looking at Erik as they went, while Erik stared at the wall of trees ahead of them. Charles could hear him calling out in his head, Emma. Emma, send Azazel back for me.

Busy evening? he heard Emma Frost respond, her voice silky-sweet in Erik's mind. He felt such a strong sense of dislike course through him that he must have unintentionally projected it, because he could feel the diamond woman's smugness through Erik's mind. I'll send Azazel in two minutes, so you can say your little goodbyes now.

Erik turned to look at Charles as they came up to the trees. "Charles . . ."

Charles nodded, waiting for him to continue, although he knew exactly what Erik was about to say.

"Just because I'm going now doesn't mean you can't join me," Erik said fervently, reaching out to touch Charles's shoulder. "My offer –,"

"Still stands," Charles finished. "I know." I won't be taking it, my friend.

"You may change your mind," Erik said. "In the future, when you realize that helping the humans isn't worth it in the end."

He smiled. "Giving aid to another will never be anything but worth it to me, Erik."

Erik shook his head, a small, barely-there smile ghosting over his face. He looked up at the trees overhead as if he couldn't bear to look at Charles anymore. "You amaze me, my friend."

Charles smiled forlornly, and then tensed when Azazel appeared, his mind appearing with such sudden force that Charles felt as though he had been slapped. All he'd been thinking of was Erik, the whole night, and to remember that there were other minds in the world was shocking.

"Your transportation is here," Charles said, watching as Erik fidgeted with the helmet in his hands. Erik was itching to put it back on, but he did not – he wanted to be with Charles until the very last second.

"Alright, then. I'll take my leave of you, now, Charles," Erik said, offering his hand in a formal handshake. Stunned, Charles was about to shake it when Erik changed his mind and bent to brush his lips over Charles's.

Charles smiled as Erik straightened back up, his heart nothing but shreds now. Erik turned and began to walk to the trees when Charles shouted, "Wait."

Erik's head snapped around, his mind buzzing – he's changed his mind – but his face dropped slightly when Charles spoke.

"In your letters," Charles began, "you closed with 'Sincerely yours, Erik.' Are you still sincerely mine?"

Erik paused. Always.

Charles felt a tear slide down his face, but he did not wipe it away. Then we will never truly be on opposite sides.

Erik turned and kept walking, disappearing into the dark trees. Charles listened in as he reached Azazel, watching through Erik's mind as Erik took hold of the rather demonic-looking teleport.

Goodbye, Erik.

Goodbye, Charles, came the answering thought, floating to Charles's mind from inside the barrier of trees. Until we meet again.

And then he was gone, his mind flicking out of Charles's considerable range like a candle being blown out.

Charles felt more tears slide down his cheeks, and he wiped them on the sleeve of his coat, feeling strangely numb, but not from cold. He should wheel himself around and go inside, or wake Hank with his mind and call for help, but he could not bring himself to do it. Instead, he let his shoulders sink into an uncharacteristic slouch, and tugged the blanket up so that it covered his mouth and nose. It still smelled of Erik and of Charles, and of sex and love and now his tears . . .

When he came out of the stupor he'd fallen into, he was surrounded by snow and daylight, and Hank McCoy was shaking him and (as Alex Summers would say) "freaking out".

"Charles, wake up, oh Christ – Sean, go call for help – I begged him not to come out here, look, his lips are blue from being so cold – Run, Sean, god-damn it – Charles, what's wrong? Are you hurt?"

"I'm fine," Charles said, his voice hoarse from disuse and probably from a cold coming on. "I'm fine, Hank, no need to call the paramedics."

"Like hell there's no need to call the paramedics, you're white as a sheet and you were just sitting out here when I found you, asleep –,"

"Hank," Charles said, looking up at the other man with eyes that were clearer than they'd ever been, calmer than they'd ever been. "I am alright."

Hank paused, and his posture slowly relaxed. "Do you want to tell me what happened?"

"I'm afraid I can't," Charles said, adjusting the blanket more tightly around him. "Will you take me inside? Thank you. I'm freezing." Sean, he called as reached out with his mind. No need to call for help, I'm quite alright.

You sure, Professor X?, Sean asked, the tone of his thoughts worried.

Yes, thank you, Charles said, breaking the mental connection with the ease of someone snapping a twig in half. Hank began to wheel him towards the school, slowly so as not to jostle him, but Charles found himself looking over his shoulder, beyond Hank and to the woods, where Erik had disappeared from sight.

Until we meet again indeed, my friend, he thought to himself, staring back at the trees until Hank pushed him around the mansion to the front door and he could no longer see them.

Whether we meet as friends or as foes, and whether it is tomorrow or thirty years from now – you will be sincerely mine until we meet again.

A/N: I got so depressed writing this. Thanks for reading, please review!