For a long while, nothing moved, and nothing mattered. Erik had pinned Charles in his final collapse and remained on top of him, inside of him, breathing only gradually returning to normal, and the telepath, for his part, found the heavy weight grounding, a way back...a safe place.

But then he was back, and the man above him stirred. He felt the mattress dip as Erik rose and sat on the edge of the bed, heard the agitated shuffling in the night table drawer, smelled the acrid fumes of a match-lit cigarette; a transient flicker of light in a now pitch-dark room.

He didn't have to take advantage of the glow's opportunity, didn't have to look, to know that Erik was troubled. A psychic storm gathered steadily around the older mutant's body, radiated electromagnetic rain, tortured thunder, clashing doubt and fear and ...fire, so that Charles nearly lost himself again in its harrowing force...in Erik's mind, and Erik's heart.

The telepath tried hard not to listen to the particulars of the tempest as he rallied his courage and pushed the post-satisfaction fatigue away. In a motion that was deceptively smooth considering the burning pain that gripped his insides, Charles raised himself on one elbow and looked at his friend anyway.

"Erik...I'm sorry."

The other man exhaled deeply, engulfing the immediate space in a cloud of smoke. His laugh was short, clipped, tense. "You must be, Charles, to feel that way about me."

The telepath forced himself to sit upright, and gripped the metal master's shoulder. His response had stirred something in him...a desperation, but not for his own sake. It granted him the gall he needed.

"No. No Erik. I am not sorry for loving you, nor am I daft for it..." There is so much in you to love... "I..." he swallowed the ache in his throat and ran his fingers through his hair self-consciously, willing the older mutant to look away from the wall, to stop clutching the shrinking cigarette as if it were a life line. "I'm sorry I thrust it upon you as I did, and after my whole schpeel about no strings. There..." and this time he really had to fight to keep his voice from shaking, "There still are none, my friend. But my love is my truth to you...for you. It is a gift...given perhaps unwisely, in a moment of..." God of what? Of bliss? Of death? "daring. Do with it what you will."

With that, Charles leaned down, and began gathering his clothing, putting all his focus on the mechanical actions, on how to get one foot in front of the other without showing the physical price of their intimacy in his walk, his wince...

Silence. And then, when he had stood completely with only a sharp inhale..."Where are you going."

Charles turned, and met the eyes of the storm. "You crave solitude. I can feel it."

Erik growled then, and seized the younger man tightly by the shoulders. The embers revealed embers...anger. "Would you stop, worrying about what I want. I know what I want, and I took it. And you gave it. You're always giving, Charles. Conceding, compromising. You care, and you give, and you love, entirely too much."

The low tones broke then, and Erik's mouth pressed itself into a taught line. His arms were shaking, and Charles, astounded...watched his friend's eyes fill at the corners before allowing himself to be pulled in a vice-like embrace. He was held then, hard, and close and absolutely...like a buoy in a cold, black sea.

"I wanted what I gave." He whispered. "Erik. I wanted to give it, and I will always worry...will always love..." you.

The other man's sigh enveloped him, rattled the fortress of his chest and arms. Finally; "I know many languages, Charles. I had to learn... but I don't remember what your words mean. I unlearned them. I don't have them anymore..."

Charles laced his fingers around the other man's neck, and kissed the thin, trembling lips. It's alright, he sent with his mind as they both lay back down in the dark. I'm a Professor...I can translate.

Epilogue

Today, I moved the satellite dish.

Today I remembered.

END

AN: Well there we have it. Thanks to everyone who stuck with this, I hope you enjoyed it. This was ssososososo hard to end! Writers block I keeeeel you! Did it feel believable? IC? Please review I am eager to hear what you all thought!