War is boring.
Not active war, of course. But the time in between the raids, training, and target practice? Mind numbing. With no television or internet and a radio that only gets local stations (static, propaganda, static) everyone is this close to coming out of their skins nearly everyday. Not now though. Right now, Erik watches Alex nearly trip over Sean's feet, laughing as he straightens up, and allows a small smile.
Alcohol. The saving grace of battle – when your options have suddenly narrowed down between going cationic with boredom and shooting up a small village of rebels, between having to choose to avoid harming children or shoot the little boy who's about to whip a grenade at your head… you need something to quiet the noise that starts to rattle against your skull.
Private Lensherr grins as he watches his comrades unwind, tips his head back, allowing his eyelids to lower lazily, and enjoys the sound of a classic rock CD (one of the many) someone was smart enough to bring along.
Camo green and grey uniforms fill the semi large room, his brothers milling about and chatting easily. Almost everyone has a beer in hand and a bare head. Erik himself hasn't had a drink all night, but he was never one for anything that wasn't finely aged scotch.
Kiss' Detroit Rock City fills the room and he watches Alex struggle to stay standing for a few moments before losing the fight and falling down onto the dusty, broken-in couch.
"Gay chicken!" he shouts from where he is now sprawled almost indecently over Sean. The proclamation is immediately met with laughs and groans alike. Hank's worried, raspy inquiry of "Gay chicken?" is lost to everyone but Erik in the noise. "I'm serious. Gay chicken."
"Don't ask, don't tell, and you want to play gay chicken?" Charles' crisp voice, loose with laughter and liquor, rises above the din, and a rumble of chuckles float through the room.
"What the hell else are we going to do?"
Erik wants to say exactly what they've been doing before Alex suggested the ridiculous notion, but he won't be the one to bring the mood down. He knows how they're feeling, needing absurdity to counter the reality - they lost Armando two days ago and are collectively in the process of coping; the five second movie still plays in Erik's head. Armando whole and fine, the green landing at his feet, sand and dirt stinging skin, and a bloody, burned body is all that's left.
He squeezes his eyes shut. Breathes in.
"Gay chicken?" Hank asks again and this time his voice is heard. "What's gay chicken?"
"Come here." The image fades, pushed delicately behind the wall constructed in his mind and a small smile tugs at Erik's lips, unbidden, at Alex's tone of voice. He creaks his eyes open. There are hoots and cat calls and Hank doesn't move from his seat beside Erik. "Seriously, come over here."
Erik stretches forward and prods the back of Hank's shoulder with the tips of his fingers. His reluctance is palpable as he down his beer and gets up to move across the barrack to stand in front of Alex, who, after a few false starts, manages to haul himself up to stand in front of Hank. "Alright, you know regular chicken, yeah?"
Hank nods and everyone's quiet enough so the other man's voice travels. "So it's the same shit. Just gay."
"Gay as in-"
"As in gay, asshole." More snorts of laughter. Erik looks up and over to where Charles has moved to lean against the wall beside Erik's chair. He's got a smirk on his face and a beer in his hand.
"Why do I have a feeling this is an awful idea?" Charles murmurs as Alex explains the rules.
"Maybe because it is." Charles gives a huff of laughter and Erik leans his head back against the wall to see the mess that is his drunken fellow soldiers.
"-to lean away loses," Alex finishes up.
"What's the point in-"
The groans drown out Hank's question and Alex grins.
"Alright, let's get started!" A devilish grin splits his face and suddenly his hand is cupping the back of Hank's neck and pulling down. The taller man nearly looses his balance and crashes lips first into Alex. A split second later he's jerking away and a howl from the surrounding men go up.
"Winner!" Alex shouts, hands up, and accepts a drunken slap from Sean. Both hands miss their marks and Erik hears Charles laughter ring in his ears. Hank's face is beet red and he tries to speak, to say something, but he ends up just grabbing another beer from the ice chest and settling down into the shadows.
"I hated this game in college." Erik looks up to see Charles watching the proceedings, clearly entertained.
Charles nods and takes a sip of his beer, eyes never leaving what Erik sees out of the corner of his eye is Sean and Azazel narrowing in on each other. "I did. It was Oxford – an overwhelming amount of young men with no outlet to experiment. Dying to try something new."
Before Azazel even gets halfway to Sean's face, Sean is backing away, shaking his head and taking the 'boos' from the surrounding crowd with good, albeit, drunken grace. It's not a surprise – Azazel is a scary man, ruddy and strong. He's dead drunk at the moment and it's surely the only reason why he's participating. Erik would hate to be the one on the receiving end of that flashback come morning.
"Were you one of the masses?" he inquires, focusing back on Charles. "Confused and itching to get a taste?"
Charles' lips curl around the neck of his bottle in a smile, a self-satisfied expression. "Not even a little bit."
"Oi." Alex's shout causes Erik to turn back to the ridiculousness in the room. Alex is looking at him from the couch where he's laid out again against a semi-passed out Sean. "You two look cozy over there."
Erik knows what's coming. Knew it even before the first round. And sure enough-
"Do it - your turn guys."
There's a sharp rise in noise level, and it's expected. Erik knows how he's seen to the others – stoic, silent, not really one to fool around. He never interrupts when the others need to get rowdy, but he never really participates, either. Despite knowing the reaction he'll get, he still shakes his head, smiling slightly.
"C'mon!" Alex throws his hand out and a few 'boos' ripple through out the room. "Everyone else was willing."
"You traumatized Hank."
"Are you saying I'll traumatize you Lensherr?" He looks up to see Charles' glittering blue eyes, full of mirth. Erik doesn't answer and Alex cat calls. "You can always back away." It's said low but Erik's senses sharpen. He knows a challenge when he hears one.
Rolling his eyes at how predictable he is, Erik sighs, gets up from his chair and leans over to snatch the video camera from Janos' hands. No hard evidence. He slips it into his back pocket and turns to face Charles. Who he towers over.
The other man is small anyway, shorter than almost everyone else in the camp, with enough muscle to be a few steps above lithe but not on the level as built. He may be small, but he's quick and good with a gun, and really, to Erik, that's all that really matters in the end.
The shoulders of Charles' camo green shirt, tucked into his grey-green camouflage pants, stretches and pulls over muscle as he downs the rest of his drink and sets the empty bottle on the floor. He's still smiling and it's an easy one- satisfied and entertained because he knows he's going to win this.
They stare at each other for a few moments, Rolling Stones floating in between the spaces, before Alex's voice breaks through the chattering voices to shout "Do it already."
Erik rolls his eyes again, but feels another small smile play around his mouth. Charles leans in and he does too, having to bend slightly to make up the height difference. He still looks so satisfied with himself that Erik places his hand on the side of Charles' throat, thumb tracing the underside of a strong jaw, just to see his reaction. He's not disappointed when some of the smugness leaves the other man's face and his eyes widen slightly. He grins victoriously and Charles loses the surprised expression in exchange of fond exasperation.
Closer and closer, and really, this is ridiculous. He should just pull back now...
Closer, and now their foreheads are touching, briefly, and Charles' hand comes to rest lightly on his waist.
Just back away and take the jostling like a man. No one would question it – no one expects him to really go through with this.
He sweeps his thumb against smooth skin, and there's a simple, basic pleasure in the action. Something that Erik hasn't felt in such a long time, has stifled, that he's almost forgotten.
The grin fades, his head tilting automatically to the right, because they're close enough (when?) and he can feel, taste, the exhale of moist breath on his lips. The innate feeling of goodness that comes from skin on skin contact washes through him again, pushing out the thoughts of forgetting this whole mess.
The hooting has gotten louder and he can hear Alex's soused cackle in the background, but it's only in the split second before their lips touch, when he feels Charles' long lashes brush against his cheek and as those big blue eyes close taking with them all the sound in the room, that it hits Erik, like a fist to the chest, that he's in trouble.
Soft, so soft, plush like the pillows he used to lounge against in his bed on lazy Sunday mornings. He falls into the kiss, and it feels like relief and the ache that he's been stifling makes itself known again. Neither of them is pulling away, and it registers distantly in his mind that that is the point of this – to jerk away, laughing and grimacing. Proclaiming your disbelief at such a daring action. But the hand on his waist tightens and his fingers play in the dip of a spine, and he's sinking into a kiss that reminds him of home.
It's been too long – that much he knows. It's screaming at him, telling him to back the fuck away while he still can and save his reputation. It's unreasonable, the pang he feels, when he pulls away first, swiftly to cover his ass. Laughing and pulling a subtle face, sucking on his bottom lip quickly to savor the taste before wiping his mouth off with the back of his hand and shaking his head.
The faux gracious "you win this one, Charles," is clunky in his mouth, and he doesn't look in the other man's direction as he walks over to the couch, accepting the sympathetic pats on the back as he passes, and pushing away Alex's feet to drop down into a seat.
The game is over and he waits five hundred and sixty seconds to let his eyes flick over to Charles.
He's smiling and laughing, talking quietly to Hank whose embarrassed blush has been swapped for the flush of alcohol. Erik stares, watches how Hank turns away to push away a somehow revived Sean, clambering for a hug, and Charles looks down at his own unopened beer bottle in his hands, jaw working and tongue peeking out for a slow lick of his lips. Tasting.