Here's the last chapter, you guys! I just wanted to say thank you for being awesome. A big thanks to everyone who faved this story, or left a review, or just read it. You people give me the warm fuzzies. Please enjoy!
Erik's clothes are folded up in a neat bundle, his turtleneck creased from sitting squished in a drawer. It feels alien as he pulls it up over his head, strangely tight after four years of baggy jumpsuits and loose t-shirts. His pants cling to his thighs and calves, but they're loose around the waist where he's lost weight and he has to fasten his belt as tightly as it'll go.
His watch's batteries are long dead, the hands frozen at one fourteen PM as he empties the contents of the manilla envelope onto his palm. The metal sings as he levitates it for a moment, his lips curving up in a small smile before he lets it drop, not wanting the guards to see. He slips his childhood keepsake, the old coin, into his trousers pocket and feels the familiar weight of it against his leg. It feels as if he's in a dream, everything not-quite-fitting but definitely his all the same.
He doesn't make eye contact as he walks down the dimly lit hallway, passing by the guards that beat him not so long ago. They don't look at him as he goes by and he doesn't look at them- if you didn't know better, you would think that they had never seen him before in their lives. He's a different man now, as he nears the sliver of light that marks the door. He's free.
The gravel walk to the parking lot is surrounded on both sides by high fences topped with barbed wire, the natural extension of the walls that enclose the prison. Everything seems gray, but it's a natural light, the sun reflecting off white clouds gathering for rain. He squints, eyes accustomed to fluorescents and the dark. It's been a long time since the sky didn't flicker and buzz at him.
Charles waits outside the prison gates, huddled against the brisk November air in an over-large sweater and rubbing his gloved hands. A grin spreads out across his face as he sees Erik coming towards him, his cheeks red from the chill. His wheelchair gleams in the bright sunlight.
Erik raises a hand, and the gates swing open.
"You cut quite the dashing figure. I thought you looked good in orange, but clearly you can wear other colors as well." Charles calls out. Erik can't help the wave of sudden, atypical happiness that wells up in him as he gets closer.
"If I never wear orange again, it'll be too soon." He grabs Charles' hand in his. It's the first time that their fingers have actually touched.
Charles presses a kiss to his knuckles, and his mouth is warm and dry despite the cold air. "How does it feel to be a free man?"
Erik bends and presses his lips to Charles', reveling in a sensation that is at the same time new and well known. "Fucking fantastic."
"Erik, language." He chides him gently, not meaning what he says at all. The other man waves a hand and Charles' wheelchair begins to move forward as he starts to walk, the two of them beside each other as they head to the car. They stop, Charles pausing as he reaches out to unlock the door and glancing up at Erik hesitantly. "Was it worth the wait?"
Erik kisses him again, and he doesn't think he could ever get tired of that one simple gesture. "It was worth every second." Their lips slide against each other, and Charles' hands squeeze at Erik's arms through his jacket, and for a moment it's like all the pain of the last four years never happened and all that's left is them.
I love you, Erik thinks.
And Charles thinks it back.