The flesh was warm. Charles leaned into it instinctively, for his body was a detonated bomb, and every breath was shrapnel…all he wanted was to curl up against this soft, brilliantly alive thing…and forget about everything…about…

Warm. Sticky…blood. Blood and…glass?

Window…mind window…darkness...darkness, pain…tears and the flowerpot?…

No no no.…where was he? Whose voice…whose flesh…God no…

"Erik…"

He didn't want to speak…didn't want to see…

"Erik."

"Charles…Du Hurensohn! What happened to you! You're okay now…yes? You are okay?"

Charles opened his eyes. Acrid stars gradually gave way to a parlor washed in semi-dawn…and Erik's distressed expression. The metal manipulator was on his knees, cradling Charles's torso and paying no heed to the multiple lacerations marring his chest and arms...

Flesh. Blood. Glass…Man. Charles's thoughts formed wildly, damaged threads struggling to weave themselves again...his friend's gaze was searching, and already filled with that familiar spark of anger…don't be angry with me please…I would do anything for you.

Horror hit the telepath as the last thread hemmed. "Erik…y-you should have left me. Please…go…go away…I can't."

Despite the radiating pain,…and the warmth, Charles scrambled to his feet and strode to the other end of the room. The effort consumed him, and when he hit the wall he allowed his body to slide. He heard Erik's growl behind him, heard the sure feet following his short path, and hunched until he was doubled over. A sob caught in his throat as he felt the metal manipulator's hand on his shoulder. The small thinking part of him noted that this was the first time he'd cried in the presence of another. Not even as a boy had he been so...candid.

Erik shook him roughly, and he moaned.

"Left you? What the hell do you mean leave you, where the hell WERE you? I had to…to…you were dead! You almost…what did you do?"

Charles's fingers paused for a split second on top of the metal manipulator's before brushing his hand away. His response was a strangled whisper. "It doesn't matter."

Erik spun Charles around (easily, as if he were a fighting dummy), so that the telepath was forced to face him once more. "The hell it doesn't matter. Your brain was frying itself."

"Leave it alone, Erik. I'm begging you."

"You're one to talk about leaving it alone!"

"I TRIED TO FORGET, ALRIGHT?" Charles's adrenaline spiked with the fight-or-flight response. He used the false strength to push Erik back, and stand. "…I tried to forget."

A long pause. Erik did not attempt to touch him again. Then, "…Forget what."

A bitter laugh. "You know what. And considering the subject of my,…intrusion, I should think your object would be to forget as well."

Erik's heavy brow creased in a frown. Charles let his silent tears fall, for truly it could get no worse than this. Instead, he ran a hand wearily through his hair, and wandered to the couch in the center of the room. The metal manipulator's eyes followed him intently…and the telepath suddenly wished he had on significantly more than boxers.

"If you want to know the truth, Charles," Erik's voice was low and unusually annunciating. "I am more surprised by your cowardice than I am by your kink."

Indignation was a strong antidote to shame. "What did you just say to me?"

"You get caught playing the voyeur, and you just, run away? No, worse than that! It would be one thing if you had simply scurried up here for the night. But you tried to run into your very mind. What were you going to do tomorrow, when I came and demanded an explanation? Play truthfully dumb? Is that what you do when your friends get too close- "Erik advanced, and was suddenly looming over the couch. "Or vice versa?"

Charles was trapped…trapped by the demanding eyes, the heaving, well-muscled chest, the barbed waves of energy, molten-electric and so assuredly Erik's,…it all boxed him in, ripped right through him, so that there was a hole where his heart used to be, and his heart was in his throat, and all he could think, even now, was 'magnificent'.

"I am not a coward."

"Then prove it."

The kiss was hard. Hard and clumsy and full of need, not at all like his artful forays with the co-eds. Erik responded immediately, pulling the young telepath up off the sofa and against his body tightly. The shards of glass pierced Charles's skin, but he did not care. All that mattered was this…this madness, oh what was this, and why had he never felt it before, and how in God's name had he gone so long without…Erik sucked on his roving tongue, and grinned against his friend's lips. This time, Charles's moan was not one of pain, and it took a superhuman, (nay, a mutant effort) to pull away…but he did.

Two friends stood panting in the center of the parlor. The sun had just crested the horizon and filled the room with golden light. A bird interrupted the silence with a chattering chirp.

"But…Raven," Charles said eventually.

Erik frowned again, and then shrugged warily. "Yes, Raven." was his only reply.

Charles reached up and cupped Erik's cheek in a gesture that was too tender for the set jaw, the stubble, and the stress wrinkles his tapered fingers traced. His gaze fell to his friend's collarbone. "I…I am sorry. About what happened."

Erik planted another fleeting kiss on the parted lips, then stepped out of Charles's reach. He strode across the room and held the door open. "Forget it. We have-"

"Work to do."

"Heh. Yes."

END